I joined the project out of a general interest for colonial history and was surprised to find how little I knew about the process of realizing colonial borders. I became highly interested in the means by which colonial settlers legislated and inhabited land with existing claims and existing populations. The European-influenced concept that land is not owned until it is improved was of particular interest, as Native American tribes had laid claim to the same land for generations prior to the arrival of the colonists. Through my involvement on the project, I also learned a great deal about the language of colonial legislating, the subjectivity of place names, and the mutable nature of borders themselves.
Reflection on Mapping Sovereignty
Mapping Sovereignty involved equal amounts of independent investigation and collaborative synthesis. Although I felt lost at the beginning of the project, having only a vague understanding of our project’s intended outcome, my own research contributed to and stemmed from the group’s collective research until we could confidently shape a final product. Understanding the realization of charters in colonial America simultaneously stimulated my personal interest in global jurisdictions, imperialism, and human populations.
I was repeatedly challenged, during our group meetings and my personal investigations, to reevaluate my assumptions about a specific person, place, or document in an effort to view the historical past as anything but fact. The work I did concerning the Georgia charter served as a perfect example; though seemingly straightforward at the outset, the boundaries for the new colony were repeatedly challenged, ignored, and manipulated by both European and extra-European interpreters.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and having the chance to learn through both personal and collective exploration. I found it exciting to become involved in such a unique learning opportunity early in my college career, and I was grateful for the skills, both abstract and concrete, that I learned as a result.