On April 30, CWI and the Gettysburg College History Department hosted a book release party for Professor Tim Shannon, whose new book Indian Captive, Indian King was published by Harvard University Press this spring. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in Weidensall Lobby on a sunny afternoon for punch, conversation, and – of course – a cake emblazoned with an exact (and higher calorie) version of the book cover. Shannon, who will finish his second term as department chair this spring, spoke briefly about the special nature of the project, how he was first introduced to Peter Williamson’s “fantastic” story, and the questions that drove him through his years of research.
Indian Captive, Indian King reconstructs the real life and fantastical narrative of Peter Williamson, a Scotsman who claimed to have been kidnapped from Aberdeen as a child and sold into slavery in America, where he was taken captive by Native Americans. Through performances in Native American garb and a printed narrative, Williamson cultivated enduring celebrity as the self-proclaimed “king of the Indians.” The book has been widely praised as a “masterpiece of historical sleuthing,” a “feat of historical detection,” and a “profound work that has much to tell us about identity and empire during the eighteenth-century.” Shannon teaches Early American, Native American, and British history courses here at Gettysburg; his work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Carter Brown Library, and the Huntington Library. His newest project examines Benjamin Franklin’s relations with and writings about Native Americans during his career as a printer, politician, and diplomat.