The Old Northwest—the region now known as the Midwest—has been largely overlooked in American cultural history, represented as a place smoothly assimilated into the expanding, manifestly-destined nation. An American Colony: Regionalism and the Roots of Midwestern Culture studies the primary texts and principal conflicts of the settlement of the Old Northwest to reveal that its entry into the nation’s culture was not without problems. In fact, Edward Watts argues that it is best understood as a colony of the United States, just as the eastern states were colonies of the British Empire.
Reconsidered as a colony, the Old Northwest becomes a crucible revealing the complex entanglement of local, indigenous, and regional interests with the coercions of racism, nationalism, and imperialism. This conflicted setting, like those of all settlement colonies, was beset by competing views of local identity, especially as they came to contradict writers from the eastern seaboard.
Using postcolonial theories developed to describe other settlement colonies, An American Colony identifies the Old Northwest as a colony and its culture as less than fully participating in either the nation’s or its own writing and identity. This embedded sense of cultural inferiority, Watts argues, haunts Midwestern culture even today.