The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New-York in America

The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New-York in America

A Critical Edition
Contributions by John M. Dixon, Karim M. Tiro

"How should we approach The History of the Five Indian Nations today? The book's information—rich as it is—should be critically interrogated and placed in social, political, and cultural context. The book reflects the outlook of a colonial British agent and, in a more general sense, of early modern European and Euro-American culture. Its claims of empirical objectivity should be historicized."—John M. Dixon, “Imperial Politics, Enlightenment Philosophy, and Transatlantic Print Culture”

The History of the Five Indian Nations remains an invaluable font of information for understanding the Iroquois during the decades before European invaders began to pour into the Longhouse. Colden’s account of Iroquois military and diplomatic exploits is studded with fascinating details. It illuminates internal and external political dynamics as well as the extent and limits of European colonial power. Colden did not necessarily comprehend the cultural logic that guided Iroquois people, but he appreciated them as agents—remarkably audacious ones—in the affairs of all of eastern North America.”—Karim M. Tiro, “Iroquois Ways of War and Peace”

Cadwallader Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New-York in America, originally published in 1727 and revised in 1747, is one of the most important intellectual works published in eighteenth-century British America. Colden was among the most learned American men of his time, and his history of the Iroquois tribes makes fascinating reading. The author discusses the religion, manners, customs, laws, and forms of government of the confederacy of tribes composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas (and, later, the Tuscaroras), and gives accounts of battles, treaties, and trade with these Indians up to 1697.


Since Cornell University Press first reprinted Colden’s History in 1958, the book has served as an invaluable resource for scholars and students interested in Iroquois history and culture, Enlightenment attitudes toward Native Americans, early American intellectual life, and Anglo-French imperial contests over North America. The new Critical Edition features materials not previously included, such as the 1747 introduction, which contains rich and detailed descriptions of Iroquois culture, government, economy, and society. New essays by John M. Dixon and Karim M. Tiro place The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New-York in America in historical and cultural context and provide a balanced introduction to the historic culture of the Iroquois, as well as their relationship to other Native people.