Early Meanings of the Hudson River
Megan McAdams '08 and Rik Scarce, Department of Anthropology
From its discovery by Henry Hudson in 1609, the Hudson River landscape's meanings changed dramatically and repeatedly throughout history. Our project's goal was to develop a theory to describe the earliest of those shifting meanings and to explain the forces that gave rise to them. We focused on two historical periods, the first beginning with the date of Hudson's visit and extending to the Dutch forfeiture of the colony to the British in 1664, the latter running from 1665 through the French and Indian War to just before the American Revolution in 1775. Our data were drawn from a wide range of materials, including the earliest-known archival sources, interviews with scholars, as well as maps and works of art as varied as oil paintings and powder horn carvings. We inductively analyzed those data, initially working with quotations, then identifying commonalities between them to create more abstract categories, then combining categories to develop even more general concepts --the core meanings of the Hudson's landscape in those periods. Ultimately, we identified eight of those central meanings in the earlier period and eleven in the latter, and many of them support our fundamental theoretical observation: That power, in some form, was dependent upon the Hudson River landscape. In that sense, the landscape, not human culture, was the ultimate arbiter of meaning in the Hudson's earliest recorded periods.
Full report is not available. Please contact Rik Scarce for more information.