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First Name
Last Name
Ursinus College
Website URL
Early North America; Indigenous history; U.S. Empire; the history of capitalism; Indigenous dispossession; Missionaries and empire
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About Me

Lori Daggar specializes in early North American history. Her research locates and follows connections between diverse peoples, locales, and ideas, and this approach enables her to link interests in empire and Indigenous histories to problems related to market development, philanthropy, and race in early America.

Daggar’s first book, Cultivating Empire, charts the connections between missionary work, capitalism, and Native politics to understand the making of the American empire in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. It explores how Native authority and diplomatic protocols encouraged the fledgling U.S. federal government to partner with missionaries in the realm of Indian affairs, and it charts how that partnership borrowed and deviated from earlier imperial-missionary partnerships.

Employing the terminology of speculative philanthropy to underscore the ways in which a desire to do good often coexisted with a desire to make profit, Cultivating Empire also links eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century U.S. Indian policy—often framed as benevolent by its crafters—with the emergence of racial capitalism in the United States. In the process, Daggar argues that Native peoples wielded ideas of philanthropy and civilization for their own purposes and that Indian Country played a critical role in the construction of the U.S. imperial state and its economy. Rather than understand civilizing missions simply as tools for assimilation, then, Cultivating Empire reveals that missions were hinges for U.S. economic and political development that could both devastate Indigenous communities and offer Native peoples additional means to negotiate for power and endure.

Daggar’s next book project examines Native peoples’ ideas, actions, and experiences during the Age of Revolutions in North America and the Atlantic World.

Recent Publications


Cultivating Empire: Philanthropy, Profit, and the Negotiation of American Imperialism in Indian Country (forthcoming in Nov. 2022; University of Pennsylvania Press).


“The White River Witch-Hunt and Indigenous Peoples’ Negotiations with Missionaries in the Era of the Early Republic,” in Benjamin Park, ed., Religion in American History (Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2021).

“‘A Damnd Rebelious Race’: The U.S. Civilization Plan and Native Authority,” in Ignacio Gallup-Diaz and Geoffrey Plank, eds., Quakers and Native Americans (Brill Press, 2019).

“The Mission Complex: Economic Development, ‘Civilization’ and Empire in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 36, no. 3 (Fall 2016).


“Warring for America, Warring for a Continent.” Journal of the Early Republic. Vol. 39, no. 4 (Winter 2019): 737-744.

“Indigenous History and Imperial America: American Indian History Today and Tomorrow,” Reviews in American History, Vol. 45, No. 3 (September 2017): 378-383.


Review of Katherine Bjork, Prairie Imperialists: The Indian Country Origins of American Empire. Western Historical Quarterly.

Review of Ben-zvi, Yael. Native Land Talk: Indigenous and Arrivant Rights Theories. Early American Literature, Spring 2019.

Review of John Reda, From Furs to Farms: The Transformation of the Mississippi Valley, 1762-1825, Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Summer 2018): 352-354.

Review of Michael Leroy Oberg, Professional Indian: The American Odyssey of Eleazer Williams. Ethnohistory, Vol. 63, No. 4 (October 2016): 754-755.

Review of Fixico, Donald, Call for Change: The Medicine Way of American Indian History, Ethos, and Reality. H-AmIndian, H-Net Reviews. January, 2015.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
North America and U.S.
Expertise by Geography
North America
Expertise by Chronology
18th century, 19th century
Expertise by Topic
American Founding Era, Capitalism, Colonialism, Diplomacy, Economic History, Indigenous Peoples, Labor, Politics, Race, Religion