Kupperman, Karen Ordahl 1939-

views updated

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl 1939-


Born April 23, 1939, in Devil's Lake, ND; daughter of Stafford Newell and Grace Ordahl; married Joel J. Kupperman (a professor of philosophy), 1964; children: Michael, Charles. Education: University of Missouri, B.A., 1961; Harvard University, M.A., 1962; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1978.


Office—53 Washington Sq. S., New York, NY 10012-1098. E-mail—[email protected]


Teacher at private school in New York, NY, 1962-64; University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, lecturer, 1976-77, assistant professor, 1978-81, associate professor, beginning 1981, became professor of history; New York University, New York, NY, professor of history, 1995—.


American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Society for Ethnohistory, Southern Historical Association.


Mellon fellow at Harvard University, 1980-81; Binkley-Stephenson Award from Organization of American Historians, 1980, for article "Apathy and Death in Early Jamestown"; American Philosophical Society fellow, 1981; American Council of Learned Societies research fellow, 1984-85; National Humanities Center fellow, 1984-85; Rockefeller Foundation fellow, 1988; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1989; Albert J. Beveridge Award, American Historical Association, 1995, for Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony; Times-Mirror Foundation distinguished fellow, 1995-96.


Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580-1640, Rowman & Littlefield (Totowa, NJ), 1980.

Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony, Rowman & Allenheld (Totowa, NJ), 1984, 2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2007.

(Editor) Captain John Smith: A Select Edition of His Writings, University of North Carolina Press/ Institute of Early American History and Culture (Williamsburg, VA), 1988.

North America and the Beginnings of European Colonization, American Historical Association (Washington, DC), 1992.

(Editor) Major Problems in American Colonial History: Documents and Essays, D.C. Heath (Lexington, MA), 1993, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.

Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor) America in European Consciousness, 1493-1750, University of North Carolina Press/Institute of Early American History and Culture (Williamsburg, VA), 1995.

Indians and English: Facing off in Early America, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2000.

The Jamestown Project, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Contributor to New Perspectives in Seventeenth-Century New England History, edited by David G. Allen and David Hall, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1984. Also contributor to history journals.


Karen Ordahl Kupperman has written extensively on early American colonial history. Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony recounts the little-known history of an English Puritan settlement on a small island off the coast of Nicaragua in the early 1600s. The short-lived colony was beset by many problems, including ignorance of tropical agriculture and the hostility of the neighboring Spanish, who ultimately took over the settlement. Wilson Library Bulletin contributor Stephanie Martin deemed the study an "excellent" book and noted that Kupperman "adds greatly to the already fascinating saga by comparing Providence Island to Massachusetts and showing how the differences in their social and political arrangements worked in Massachusetts's favor."

In Indians and English: Facing off in Early America, Kupperman provides an overview of the often complex relationships between the early English colonists and explorers and the native peoples they encountered. Rejecting the idea that it was simply a confrontation between an advanced culture and a more primitive one, Kupperman argues instead that both the English and the Native Americans learned much from each other. The English, for example, were dependent upon the Indians for information about the New World. Both cultures learned from each other new ways of looking at the world. Kupperman also dispels common misperceptions about the relationship between early colonists and the native tribes, including the idea that native cultures were egalitarian in nature. She points out that the hierarchical structure of native society made the English more comfortable with them. Though he pointed out some minor shortcomings in the book, Michael P. Winship in the Times Literary Supplement concluded that Kupperman's "emphases on cultural contexts and the recovery of Indian agency and endurance make her book representative of much recent work in this field." Charles K. Piehl, reviewing the book for Library Journal, found it to be an "exceedingly well-argued and well-presented work, with many interdisciplinary insights."

Kupperman also received praise for America in European Consciousness: 1493-1750, a collection of scholarly papers that she edited. The book, which English Historical Review contributor John Lynch cited favorably for its "precise focus," explores the impact of the American continent on European consciousness from the late fifteenth through the mid-eighteenth centuries.

The Jamestown Project was written to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Kupperman looks at the history of the settlement as it related to the political arena of Europe, analyzing in particular the rivalry between Spain and England regarding attempts to colonize the New World. Colonies were meant not just as an extension of the country or an opportunity to discover new goods for trade, but as strategic outposts in a potential war and as places where Christianity might be spread. Gilbert Taylor, reviewing for Booklist, wrote that "the encounter of these concepts with the reality that was America—its people, climate, and landscape—is where Kupperman's account thrives." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: "Kupperman, marrying vivid narration with trenchant analysis, has done the history of Jamestown, and of early America, a great service."



American Historical Review, June, 1985, Bernard W. Sheehan, review of Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony, p. 750; December, 1995, David Eltis, review of Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony, p. 1663.

American History Illustrated, March, 1985, review of Roanoke, p. 7.

Booklist, February 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Jamestown Project p. 27.

English Historical Review, June, 1997, John Lynch, review of America in European Consciousness, 1493-1750, p. 756.

Journal of American History, March, 1995, Virginia DeJohn Anderson, review of Providence Island, 1630-1641, p. 1671; June, 1996, Richard Middleton, review of America in European Consciousness, 1493-1750, p. 173.

Journal of Southern History, February, 1996, Virginia Bernhard, review of Providence Island, 1630-1641, p. 112; May, 1996, Michael L. Oberg, review of America in European Consciousness, 1493-1750, p. 353.

Library Journal, May 1, 1984, review of Roanoke, p. 898; May 1, 2000, Charles K. Piehl, review of Indians and English: Facing off in Early America, p. 132.

Publishers Weekly, January 1, 2007, review of The Jamestown Project, p. 45.

Times Literary Supplement, September 22, 2000, Michael P. Winship, review of Indians and English, p. 33.

Wilson Library Bulletin, May, 1994, Stephanie Martin, review of Providence Island, 1630-1641, p. 89.