Making the Frontier Man

Violence, White Manhood, and Authority in the Early Western Backcountry

Expertly researched and well written, this book is a valuable addition to frontier historiography.

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For western colonists in the early American backcountry, disputes often ended in bloodshed and death. Making the Frontier Man examines early life and the origins of lawless behavior in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio from 1750 to 1815. It provides a key to understanding why the trans-Appalachian West was prone to violent struggles, especially between white men. Traumatic experiences of the Revolution and the Forty Years War legitimized killing as a means of self-defense—of property, reputation, and rights—transferring power from the county courts to the ordinary citizen. Backcountry men waged war against American Indians in state-sponsored militias as they worked to establish farms and seize property in the West. And white neighbors declared war on each other, often taking extreme measures to resolve petty disputes that ended with infamous family feuds.
Making the Frontier Man focuses on these experiences of western expansion and how they influenced American culture and society, specifically the nature of western manhood, which radically transformed in the North American environment. In search of independence and improvement, the new American man was also destitute, frustrated by the economic and political power of his elite counterparts, and undermined by failure. He was aggressive, misogynistic, racist, and violent, and looked to reclaim his dominance and masculinity by any means necessary.

about the author

Matthew C. Ward

Matthew C. Ward is a lecturer in the department of history at the University of Dundee, Scotland.

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Matthew C. Ward