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Kristofer Ray


Senior Editor, Tennessee Historical Quarterly

Associate Professor of History

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PhD University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2003

BA Baylor University, 1994


Research Interests:

     My scholarly interests concentrate on early modern North America within the context of the Atlantic World, with attention to issues of identity formation, political culture, and the Native South.  I particularly focus on Indian-European interaction in trans-Appalachia and the Ohio Valley.  In my current book project, I investigate how Cherokees influenced British and French trans-Appalachian policy, circa 1670-1776.  I find that Carolina’s interest in deerskin trading in the Tennessee and Ohio River valleys, combined with the fear of French expansion into the Illinois country, fueled British efforts to ally with Overhill Cherokees (who maintained a notable presence in all three places).  In pursuing this alliance British Carolinians catalyzed French efforts to solidify Indian connections, which touched off a process of contestation along a “corridor” stretching from the Little Tennessee River in Appalachia through the Tennessee Valley to Illinois, the Ohio Valley, and the Wabash Valley.  The corridor became an avenue through which Cherokees and French-allied Indians consistently interacted with one another.  As they accelerated their interest in trans-Appalachia, Europeans struggled to overcome a dissonance between their visions of empire and the reality of Cherokee mobility and power. 

     This project expands historical understandings of both the Atlantic World and Southeastern Native Studies.  On the one hand, it moves beyond “post-middle ground” analysis by extending Indian influence to the highest levels of empire.  Because of their mobility Indians pushed imperial Europeans to develop inter-regional diplomatic initiatives.  On the other hand, mobility in and through the corridor was one way by which Cherokees came to understand themselves as a nation.   By emphasizing Indian rather than European influences this project offers a new direction for Cherokee scholars to consider diplomacy as well as the critical ideas of identity and sovereignty.


Recent Courses Taught:

Early Modern North America, 1492-1688

The Rise and Fall of British North America, 1688-1783

The South in the Atlantic World, 1540-1763

Indians, Europeans, and Empire in North America, 1670-1763

Indians and Europeans in the Early Modern American Southeast, 1540-1763

The Invasion of America: American Indian History, Pre-Contact to 1800


Selected Recent Publications:

Middle Tennessee, 1775-1825: Progress and Popular Democracy on the Southwestern Frontier (University of Tennessee Press, 2007)

Editor, Before the Volunteer State: New Thoughts on Early Tennessee History, 1670-1800 (University of Tennessee Press, 2015)

 “Cherokees, Empire, and the Tennessee Corridor in the British Imagination, 1670-1730,” in Ray, ed., Before The Volunteer State

With Kevin T. Barksdale, “Searching for John Sevier: Myth, Memory, and the History of Early Tennessee History,” in Ray, ed., Before The Volunteer State

“Leadership and Sovereignty in the Revolutionary American Southwest: The State of Franklin as Case Study,” North Carolina Historical Review Vol. XCII #2 (April 2015)

“Indians, Europeans, and the Struggle for Empire in 18th Century North America,” in Antonio Thompson and Christos Frentzos, eds., The Routledge Handbook of U.S. Diplomatic and Military History, Volume 1: Colonial Period to 1877 (Routledge Press, 2014)

"Cherokees and Franco-British Confrontation in the Tennessee Corridor, 1730-1760" Native South Vol. 7 (2014)

"The Republicans are the Nation?  Thomas Jefferson, William Duane, and the Evolution of the Republican Coalition, 1809 -1815," American Nineteenth Century History Vol. 14 #3 (2013)

“Thomas Jefferson and A Summary View of the Rights of British North America,” in Francis Cogliano, ed., A Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Blackwell Publishing, 2012)

“New Directions in Early Tennessee History, 1540-1815” Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol. 68, #3 (Fall 2010)

“Political Culture and the Origins of a Party System in the Southern Ohio Valley: The Case of Early National Tennessee, 1796-1812,” Ohio Valley History Vol. 4, #4 (Winter 2004)

 “Land Speculation, Popular Democracy and Political Transformation on the Tennessee Frontier, 1780-1800,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol. 61, #3 (Fall 2002)

 Assistant Editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Volume 5: May 1812-March 1813 (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Assistant Editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Volume 3: August 1810-June 1811 (Princeton University Press, 2006)

Assistant Editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Volume 2: November 1809-August 1810 (Princeton University Press, 2005)


In Progress:

Monograph:  Cherokees, Europeans, and Empire in the Tennessee Corridor, 1670-1763 (under consideration at the University of Illinois Press)

Book Chapter:  “‘Our Concerns with Indians are now greatly extended’: Interpreting the Quebec Act from the Ohio Valley, 1763-1774,” in François Furstenberg and Ollivier Hubert, eds., The Quebec Act of 1774: Transnational Contexts, Meanings, and Legacies

Journal-length Essays:  “‘The Indians of every denomination were free, and independent of us’: Anglo-American Explorations of Indian Slavery, Freedom, and Society in Virginia, 1650-1815”

“‘we shall be obliged to drive them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony mountains’: Constructing a Legal Discourse for Southern Indian Removal, 1772-1830”


Book Reviews in The Journal of American History, The Journal of Early American History, The Journal of Southern History, The Journal of the Early Republic, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Ethnohistory, Florida Historical Quarterly, Georgia Historical Quarterly, North Carolina Historical Review, Ohio Valley History, Agricultural History, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Southern Cultures, and Presidential Studies Quarterly