In this detailed study of the politics of Pennsylvania’s frontiers, Patrick Spero reclaims the term frontier from its role as an analytical concept. Noting that colonists used the term widely in the eighteenth century to denote “a zone that people considered vulnerable to invasion,” he contends that colonists’ understandings of frontiers shaped their relations with various levels of colonial government (6). Despite a shared conception of frontiers, competing attitudes about the presence of Indians within the polity meant that Pennsylvania’s western settlers frequently disagreed with colonial and imperial officials about whether a given locale constituted a frontier. Spero argues that these diverging views eroded the bond between frontier people and their colonial governments, before the Revolution institutionalized frontier peoples’ views of Indians as permanent enemies in “a new governing contract on the terms frontier people demanded” (9).

William Penn’s vision of peaceful...

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