Oberg, Michael Leroy
OBERG, Michael Leroy
Male. Education: Syracuse University, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo, associate professor of history.
Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, 1585-1685, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
Uncas: First of the Mohegans, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2003.
Michael Leroy Oberg, associate professor of history at the State University of New York at Geneseo and a scholar of colonial North America, is the author of Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, 1585-1685 and Uncas: First of the Mohegans, the latter appearing in 2003.
Dominion and Civility makes an "important point" according to a reviewer for the American Historical Review, noting the fact that Oberg highlights the contrast between English imperial policies in theory and the way these policies were actually implemented in the New World colonies during the seventeenth century. Oberg proposes that English colonists were divided over questions of Native Americans' nature and potential. According to the historian, so-called "metropolitans"—often officers of the Crown whose duty it was to uphold royal policy in both England and the colonies—viewed indigenous Americans as being not lesser individuals, but existing at an earlier stage of civilization than the more progressive English. In contrast, most frontier settlers felt that Native Americans were savages, their limited capacity for growth apparent in their minimalist speech and lack of a "civilized" society. Oberg attributes settlers' disdain to both their experiences during the bloody Irish wars as well as their desire for profits and land. Organized opposition to natives would help ensure English settlers security against future attacks.
To further build his case, Oberg discusses the events that took place at the Roanoke colony, as well as the actions leading up to the Indian wars that erupted in Virginia in 1622 and in New England during 1637. Noting that the author neglects a discussion of royal policymaking while emphasizing the policymaking of colonial governors, Donald A. Duhadaway, Jr. noted in History: Review of New Books that Oberg "has written a fascinating and detailed account of the clash between English imperialism and native cultures." Dominion and Civility, Duhadaway concluded, "is a fine book, one to be appreciated by both college students and professional historians." Louise A. Breen commented in her review for the American Indian Culture and Research Journal that Oberg "is to be applauded for heightening our awareness of the complexities of English colonization," adding: "In a field where the lack of synthesis has been keenly felt and almost universally decried, this book is no small accomplishment."
In Uncas: First of the Mohegans Oberg seeks to separate the man from the myth by delving into the reality and motivation of the famous Native American Mohegan leader. Uncas, made popular due to his fictionalization in James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans, remains a controversial character, both loved and despised. The Narragansett tribe once viewed Uncas as the reason their beloved sachem, Miantonomi, was murdered, citing Uncas's treachery in conspiring with the English for the benefit of the Mohegans as the reason for Miantonomi's death. To the English however, Uncas was esteemed as a reliable and honorable ally. Researching the legend to sort fact from myth, Oberg reveals a Mohegan leader who effectively utilized his alliance with the colonists in order to benefit his own people, despite the possible cost to another native tribe. John Burch, reviewing the work for Library Journal, recommended Uncas as a "well-written work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 2000, Nancy Shoemaker, review of Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, pp. 1291-1292.
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, February, 2001, Louise A. Breen, review of Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, pp. 171-174.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 1999, Donald A. Duhadaway, Jr., review of Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, p. 9.
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, John Burch, review of Uncas: First of the Mohegans, p. 110.
William and Mary Quarterly, July, 2000, review of Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, p. 677.
Cornell University Press Web site,http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/ (October 7, 2003).
State University of New York at Geneso Web site,http://www.geneseo.edu/ (April 16, 2004), "Michael Olberg."*