Diplomatic, Political, and Intellectual History of Native America and the Early United States
Zachary Conn is a historian of eighteenth and nineteenth century North America. His work seeks to build intellectual bridges between historical scholarship about American Indian peoples and about the early United States. He brings the central concerns of Indigenous history—Native people’s agency, sovereignty, and worldviews—to bear upon the study of diplomacy, statecraft, and political thought in a grounded, human way.
Conn’s dissertation, The Ambassadors: Indigenous and Imperial Diplomats in the Great Lakes Region, 1815-1842, argues that Native Americans in present-day Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota exerted a larger and longer-lasting influence upon the United States’ place in the world than historians have recognized. The War of 1812 is usually portrayed as having dealt a quick death blow to Indigenous Midwesterners’ influence upon US foreign relations in particular and international politics in general. The Ambassadors draws upon records documenting everyday diplomacy at imperial embassies in Indian Country, along with more traditional foreign policy archives from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, to paint a different picture. As late as the near-outbreak of a third Anglo-Indigenous-American war during the 1837-8 Canadian Rebellions, American agents continued to try, and often fail, to prevent Native communities like the Ojibwes and the Dakotas from maintaining alliances with British forces through strategic annual border crossings. Looking at ground level relations between the United States and Indigenous polities reveals the depth and duration of Indian influence on American foreign affairs.
Conn earned an A.B. in History with Honors from the University of Chicago in 2012 and an M.Phil. in Early American History from Yale in 2017. At Yale he has served as a Teaching Fellow for undergraduate courses in North American, British, and European history and as the graduate student coordinator of the Yale Early American Historians (YEAH) colloquium. He has shared findings from his dissertation in such venues as the American Society for Ethnohistory’s annual meeting, the John Carter Brown Library, Oxford University’s All Souls College, Purdue University’s 2019 Remaking American Political History conference, the Age of Revolutions academic blog, and the Washington Post’s Made By History site. He has an article under revision at the Journal of the Early Republic drawn from an earlier project on the role of the Articles of Confederation in nineteenth-century debates about slavery, citizenship, international trade, and Indigenous sovereignty. He plans to submit his dissertation in March 2020.
Please feel free to reach out via email or Twitter (@zachariasconn).