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Wampum and the Origins of American Money

by Marc Shell

Wampum and the Origins of American Money Synopsis

Wampum has become a synonym for money, and it is widely assumed that it served the same purposes as money among the Native Algonquians even after coming into contact with European colonists' money. But to equate wampum with money only matches one slippery term with another, as money itself was quite ill-defined in North America for decades during its colonization.In this stimulating and intriguing book, Marc Shell illuminates the context in which wampum was used by describing how money circulated in the colonial period and the early history of the United States. Wampum itself, generally tubular beads made from clam or conch shells, was hardly a primitive version of a coin or dollar bill, as it represented to both Native Americans and colonial Europeans a unique medium through which language, art, culture, and even conflict were negotiated. With irrepressible wit and erudition, Shell interweaves wampum's multiform functions and reveals wampum's undeniable influence on the cultural, political, and economic foundations of North America.Published in Association with the American Numismatic Society, New York, New York.

Wampum and the Origins of American Money Press Reviews

I am struck with the remarkable depth and breadth of Marc Shell's scholarship in this book, his fascinating focus on the role of bilingualism and especially wampum in the development of American banking and currency, and his intriguing plays on words and images. An extremely stimulating and enjoyable book. --Kathleen J. Bragdon, author of The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Northeast The author's erudition and breadth of commentary is both edifying and entertaining. --EH.Net Literature professor Shell provides a scholarly overview of wampum as the lingua franca of the New World. . . . By tracing the path of American currency from wampum to Wall Street, he removes wampum from historical-footnote status and spotlights a fascinating, often forgotten, aspect of Americana. --Booklist This copiously color-illustrated and erudite work fills a significant gap in the literature of Native American and U.S. economic studies and is highly recommended. --Library Journal Marc Shell provides wide-ranging and interesting observations on money as a medium of communication, translation, and commercial transaction. . . . Building on his valuable work on money and language, Shell shows that, like coins or paper money, wampum had agreed-upon meanings and values that facilitated exchange between individuals and societies. --The Historian Not only does this book illuminate an interesting and little-discussed corner of American cultural history--the history and cultural significance of currency--but it does so in an open and engaging style. Provocative and filled with creative ideas. --Frederick E. Hoxie, coeditor of Lewis and Clark and the Indian Country: The Native American Perspective

Book Information

ISBN: 9780252033667
Publication date: 2nd October 2013
Author: Marc Shell
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 168 pages
Categories: History of the Americas, Economic history,

About Marc Shell

Marc Shell is Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature and professor of English at Harvard University. He is the author of many books, including The Economy of Literature and Money, Language, and Thought.

More About Marc Shell

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