Frontiers of Possibility
This introductory chapter presents two cardinal formulae in British colonial discourse under which invaders acquired Native land for settlement. Under the doctrine of terra nullius, as instantiated in Australia, no Indigenous rights to land were acknowledged so that settlement could proceed as if there were no Natives present. By contrast, a concessionary variant—which acknowledged a limited set of Native rights that did not conflict with the rules and institutions governing the settler polity—was instantiated in North America, where it found expression in Indian treaties. To the skeptical eye—conversant with the uniformity characterizing settlement's founding events—such distinctions are postfrontier declarations, invoked to legitimate the settler takeover. Thus, it is a commonplace that the Doctrine of Discovery was primarily concerned with relations between European sovereigns rather than with relations between Europeans and those whom they colonized.
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