Date of Award

Summer 8-5-2016

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jacques Ferland

Second Committee Member

Liam Riordan

Third Committee Member

Scott See

Additional Committee Members

Stephen Miller

Stephen Hornsby


This dissertation examines the exercise and limitation of power at the interpersonal and intercultural level in the contested borderlands region around Lake Ontario in the middle decades of the eighteenth century. Beginning in the 1720s, the region underwent an intensification of geopolitical competition among the British and French empires and the Iroquois Six Nations. During this time that Iroquois Confederacy granted competing trading posts to the British at Oswego and the French at Niagara in an effort to secure goods, balance neighboring rivals, and maintain their own sovereignty. Despite these cessions, the social and diplomatic interests of the Iroquois remained the foundation of the regions politics until the end of the Seven Years’ War. However, a variety of political officials, military officers, soldiers, and traders working for the British in New York and the French in Canada recognized the largely native dynamics and adjusted their tactics and goals accordingly. The resulting new culture of power, dubbed “petite politique,” sought to exploit mobility, control the flow of resources and information, conduct intercultural on-the-ground diplomacy, and exert sovereignty, often by symbolic means. By detailing daily operations at the micro-historical level this study illuminates a distinctive borderland region, which was characterized by function and mentality. It was largely a synthesis of Iroquois tactics and interests, and colonial agendas, antagonism, and warfare. Borderland fluidity, rather than aiding the Iroquois alone, could also serve to further the aims of imperialists. This marked a departure from the "middle ground" diplomacy of the west and the much more militarized and colonized areas to the east. Around Lake Ontario the politics of relatively cohesive native homeland collided and combined with the inter-imperial struggle to produce new geopolitical opportunities. The resulting petite politique proved to be a durable and flexible New World creation, existing in times of both peace and war. By the latter part of the Seven Years' War these talks, meetings, travels, connections, and confrontations ultimately undid the very borderland conditions that had brought about its existence.