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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our Savage Neighbors
.
This is not, and is not meant to be, the standard book on the French and Indian War that so many readers seem to be anticipating.

Silver states his intentions very clearly in his Introduction:

"This book is about how fear and horror, with suitable repackaging, can remake whole societies and their political landscapes. The societies in question...
Published on July 28, 2012 by Kim Burdick

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting
You would have thought that the Indians were the only savages in the woods, but the Europeans, especially in North America were equally as savage. The "white man" made promises he had no intention of keeping from the highest position in government to the lowly landowner. They continued to take land from the Indians, deplete that same land of wildlife and...
Published 11 months ago by richard e whitelock


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our Savage Neighbors, July 28, 2012
By 
Kim Burdick (NEWARK, DE, US) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
.
This is not, and is not meant to be, the standard book on the French and Indian War that so many readers seem to be anticipating.

Silver states his intentions very clearly in his Introduction:

"This book is about how fear and horror, with suitable repackaging, can remake whole societies and their political landscapes. The societies in question are the middle provinces of British North America--a collection of rural colonies strung along the center of the Atlantic seaboard, joining Indian country to the ocean--during a long generation of wars from the 1750s to the 1780s." [pg xviii]

As the story opens, race relations in Pennsylvania had been relatively amicable for several generations. Many Native Americans had been Christianized and a significant number of Indians could speak English, German, or both, as well as their native tongues. Now millions of new immigrants were arriving in droves in Philadelphia, upsetting the established social balance.

When the Seven Years War broke out in Europe it soon became evident that the lands and inhabitants of the British and French colonies were being used as playing chips in a bloody global game, and that both Great Britain and France were stirring up the American Indians.

As the stakes in the European game grew higher, journalists and pamphleteers whipped the colonial population into a frenzy. Negative campaigning, fear-mongering, slogans and symbolic gestures such as carting the dead through the streets of major cities, escalated.

As the publicity campaign grew more vicious, so did reactions of previously neutral people. Quakers turned against Quakers, Native Americans against Native Americans, Germans against the English, Scots-Irish Presbyterians against everyone. It is human nature to try to destroy things that make us feel afraid.

Scalpings by Indians of white men, scalpings by white men of Indians, death and destruction of all kinds came to a seething, roiling boil. Each group was as awful, as frightened, as horrifying, as human, as the other.

Slowly, public mood began to shift. Scapegoats were needed. Many European-Americans began to see both the Indians and the governing Quakers as villains. Soon Indians were highlighted in the press as the "true villains."

The author's hypothesis is that in this era of shape shifting, race relations became real in America. The opposition teams began to self-identify not as different kinds of human beings from many different countries, but as "white men" and "red men."

Silver's writing is fairly convoluted and there surely must be a better way in which to organize or subdivide the text, but the book can be seen both as decent history and as an illuminating cautionary tale.

In today's climate of ugly negative campaign politics, vicious slander and closed minds, the reader will intuitively understand fear and loathing on the 18th century frontier.

Kim Burdick
Stanton, Delaware
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of American Intellectual history!!, September 8, 2009
Peter Silver has achieved something quite extraordinary with this book. It's a brilliant meditation on the formation of an American identity in the violent years of conflict between 1755 and 1789. In these years, Silver argues, colonists were both enraptured and appalled by the spectre of Indian attacks on the frontier of their settlements. By centering his examination on the "Middle Colonies" - really Pennsylvania - he is able to tease out the ways Germans, Scots-Irish, Quakers, Moravians, and the numerous other small ethnic enclaves in the region became bound by the "anti-Indian sublime" - a form of writing and communication that left every man woman and child fearing for their lives.

The great irony, of course, is that Pennsylvania had perhaps the most peaceful and nonviolent Indian population in the American colonies. But that was really beside the point. What these people needed was a way to distinguish themselves from the European brothers as the Revolution became a reality. What better than to focus on the trials and tribulations they had suffered in the savage wilderness of America? The amalgamation of different groups under the mantle of "American" was not a product of some enlightened democratic spirit, but one born out of fear. To be American was to have survived a life on the edge of a howling wilderness that held grave secrets and dangerous animals just waiting to take their children.

There is no mistake that America's first great novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, wrote about such themes. It was what defined the uniquely American experience of the 18th century...it was what made Americans exceptional. There remains much more to be said on the subject, but Silver has set a very high bar indeed. Optimally, I'd encourage readers to pick this one up only after they read James Merrell's equally impressive Into the American Woods: Negotiations on the Pennsylvania Frontier which covers earlier ground in the same locales.

As a caveat, as impressed as I was with the book, I do concede that chronology is not Silver's strongest point, as he does have a tendency to wander around the 1750s, 60s, and 70s. Thus, this is not a book I would suggest as the first you read on the period...rather, pick up Fred Anderson's Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 or something else on the period to give yourself a good foundation. It is essential to really being able to take advantage of the incredibly detailed, nuanced, and profoundly inspiring exegesis of american pamphleteering and other writing on Indian affairs. In the end, a book this good simply can't be easy...masterpieces never are - and let me be very clear that this is not a label I ascribe to any book lightly. Sheer inquisitive brilliance seeps from every page...and while Silver's prose can at times obscure, in the end the conclusions could not be more clear.

America's founding remains ripe for further exploration in this vein, and Silver's book is hopefully only a start. Intellectual and cultural history of this sort has become less and less common today, but we can only hope his example inspires others to pick up where he leaves off. It is, after all, only our very identity as a people and a nation he seeks to make sense of. Recasting the American melting pot as a cauldron boiling over with Indian war is a great place to start.
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51 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Completely Believable Theory of How the White Race was Invented in America, February 26, 2008
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To the extent that all our history is but a conduit back to our collective national memory, this sophisticated book chips away at the "Rosetta Stone" coiled in the nation's bosom: It uncovers one of the key sources of our obsession with the issue of race, and racism.

But race, in this context has to do, not so much with black and white issues, as with red and white issues. Unlike the familiar tracts on how whiteness evolved, (Such as Winthrop D. Jordan's "White over Black," or Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race") that tend to carry the heavy odor of a socialist axe to grind (which is to say most of them), this one has no ideological axe to wield. And the very fact that it took so long to uncover this rather innocent but imminently common sense and believable thesis is itself no small measure of how deep our national denial on the issue of race really is.

What this brilliant author and researcher tells us is that the white race has not been in existence for time immemorial (as the committed racists tell themselves - even claiming Greek and Roman history as part of a common "white heritage," and pedigree), but was invented in the aftermath of the "Seven Year War," by demagogues, and scam-artists, pamphleteers, and other peddlers of the print medium, whose tactics even today would make Madison Avenue "Ad Men" blush.

As the story is told here, during, and in the aftermath of the war between England and France, the disparate tribes on opposing sides of that war, for their own respective existential imperatives, found for the first time, ways to coalesce as groups in order to fight each other in that war. The Indian tribes, who literally had been fighting each other for centuries, came together for the first time to address the emerging and rapidly expanding existential threat of encroaching (rather than invading) hoards of "European Settlers," who the Indians (not Europeans) first gave the name "White men."

On the opposing side, were the European tribes: a disparate collection of Europe's ethnic underbelly. Most were thrown onto the North American shores to sink or swim as a last resort to their lowly European existence. As people, these European tribes were as unalike and as disconnected from each other as any group ever dumped onto the shores of a foreign land. For the most part they disliked and distrusted each other immensely, and did so for all the obvious reasons: They had fought each other on the European continent over customs, traditions, religions, politics, resources, etc. But in Europe they were at least protected from each other by national borders. In the new world even this final barrier was torn way. They were all thrown into the same American mixing bowl, left to their own devices, to sink or swim.

It was in fact these "pockets" of differentiated, unmixable and profoundly isolated ethnic European tribes that were strewn and strung vulnerable across the pre-American frontier. Each tribe it seems had in fact made a conscious effort to get as far away from other European tribes as was humanly possible. This cultural dis-affinity and isolation among the white tribes, which even today remains an enduring fixture of the American cultural and geographic landscape, during the time of Seven Year War, became a decidedly serious military liability.

Both the French and their Indian allies were keenly aware of, and sought to exploit this vulnerability. The Indians used terrorist tactics (such as scalping their victims and leaving them in conspicuous places) to brilliant effect. By "picking off" the settlers one hamlet and fort at a time, the Indian raids raised to the breaking point the ante on fear and terror among the isolated settlers. The disparate white tribes now had no choice but to try to come together to fight a common and very effective and determined enemy. However, this proved easier said than done. The then "powers that be, the landed gentry, secure on their estates, away from the outer perimeter of the frontier, could care less about those poor desperate bastards left isolated and vulnerable "out there" of the nation's periphery.

So, what to do?

The tribes had no choice but to come together, under the shrewd media blitz and demagoguery of the peddlers of a new war propaganda and a new racial ideology of "saving the white men from the terror of the red men;" and in doing so, they made a virtue out of necessity. This book tells how they did this. That is to say, it tells how the demagogues of that day, repackaged the fear and horrors of the frontier wars to create an artificial unity among the European tribes that overtime would endure and would evolve into, not just a unifying racial ideology and worldview, but also into a democratic revolution that dignified ordinary people and gave expression to the fledgling new republic's deepest yearnings. A truly worthy contribution to American history and to historical scholarship.

Five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting, January 16, 2014
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You would have thought that the Indians were the only savages in the woods, but the Europeans, especially in North America were equally as savage. The "white man" made promises he had no intention of keeping from the highest position in government to the lowly landowner. They continued to take land from the Indians, deplete that same land of wildlife and resources until neither could subsist. I don't blame the Indians for their behavior which in most cases was a reaction to the white man. You'll have to read this one to fully appreciate the behavior on both parts. And brutal and savage they were.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who were the real savages?, April 9, 2014
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This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
Fear and loathing of Native Americans drove the hatred that fired the Indian wars that followed rumors of attacks. Fear made
attacks seem to be more violent and happen more often than they really did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Exciting Look into the Indian Wars, November 9, 2013
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This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
(Note: This is a shorter version of a professional review I wrote for "Our Savage Neighbors")

Silver's "Our Savage Neighbors" explores the changes British Colonial America experienced during the Indian Wars of the eighteenth century, including chances in colonial society and colonial outlooks on race and class (an "anti-Indian sublime"). Silver uses excellent examples and narratives of real everyday people to present his evidence to the reader and he backs up these examples with ample citations. Every claim he makes, he proves with a source.
However, while Silver's book is well received and liked in professional circles, the heavy research and citations may turn off the casual reader.
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30 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ritual Torture, January 7, 2011
By 
Bob Smalser (Hood Canal, Washington, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
Silver has a variant of what the US State Department refers to as "countryitis" (becoming so enamored as to lose sight of the objective), excusing barbarous behavior of one side while expressing a clear dislike of and disrespect for the other. He also seems to lack a seasoned grasp of the human conditions in Europe that caused the waves of migration to America, the flavor of the day-to-day life of immigrant subsistence farmers on the frontier, the gradients of human reaction to fear, and the context and perspective of prior Native-on-Native cultural clashes and forced migrations during 13,000 or so years of pre-European history in the Americas.

The tone of the book is elitist. It appears rife with cherry-picked examples, slanted interpretations and even factual error. For example, Silver clearly states there were no incidents east of the Susquehanna during Pontiac's Rebellion, implying another ovine overreaction on the part of homesteaders there. That's utter nonsense. He hints at but conveniently skips over the well-documented 10-mile rampage of local "friendly" Lenape Delawares through Allen and Whitehall Townships on October 8, 1763 that left 23 settlers dead and scalped, 13 of them young children. While this may have been an impulsive event, and wasn't entirely unprovoked, it also wouldn't have happened on such a scale outside the context of other tribal aggression nearby. It was also a major part of the impetus for a similar (and slightly smaller) atrocity committed 50 miles away by white men two months later, an incident Silver dwells on at length. While I'm not proposing he trade one bias for another, I was left wondering what Silver's perspective would be if it were his children who were "ritually" scalped and left to die.

It's also ritual torture to read. Against the simple standard of the average reader understanding the content of a paragraph in the first read-through, I can't recall a dozen pages in the book with every paragraph meeting it.

If I were reviewing this as a dissertation, I'd prescribe a season or two of crop harvesting, logging, and pulling stumps with the nearby Amish using horse teams. Then while the blisters healed, a few weeks in Fallujah or the latest trouble spot to gain a better understanding of how most people live with real fear without overreaction. Last, a strong dose of David Hackett Fischer and Aaron Spencer Fogelman to gain maturity, perspective, objectivity, and tutelage on the mechanics of organization and style. Then I'd hope for a better rewrite, as Silver's thinking, capacity for rich detail, and conclusions have considerable merit and deserve better treatment.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Required reading in American History, July 22, 2014
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This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
This book was so complicated to understand because of the way it was written. Granted, I had a heavy school load the semester I had to read this, and I was not a fan of my History class, but it was so dang hard to get through this book. I obviously had somewhat of a good understanding of it, because I passed the assignment for this book with an A, but it was definitely a struggle. Like with most of my college books... I learned some, I struggled with some, and I'm glad it's over.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read for historians, December 8, 2014
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This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
Read for grad school. This title is somewhat misleading as it focuses primarily on Western Pennsylvania.
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17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, November 12, 2009
This review is from: Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (Paperback)
This book may be of some interest to academics, but it's a poor choice for most readers. It's very poorly written. The tortured syntax makes it hard to read, and that's not helped by the authors tendency to skip around with little structure. That's too bad, because the subject is an interesting one. Save your money for a better presentation of the subject.
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Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America
Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America by Peter Rhoads Silver (Paperback - August 3, 2009)
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