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The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity

3.4 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375702624
ISBN-10: 0375702628
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1675, tensions between Native Americans and colonists residing in New England erupted into the brutal conflict that has come to be known as King Philip's War, named after Philip, the leader of the Wampanoag Indians. Jill Lepore's book is an evocative and insightful study of America's recollection and understanding of one of the bloodiest wars to take place on its soil.

Lepore, an assistant professor of history at Boston University, depicts the horrors of this conflict, from gruesome tortures to the massacre of women and children, so explicitly barbaric that the term "war" barely applies. An underlying theme of her narrative is that this unfortunate battle only served to strengthen the boundaries of cultural difference between the Native Americans and colonists, setting a rigid foundation for the many years of enmity between Indians and Anglos that would ensue.

Skillfully drawing on accounts of substance from participants on both sides, Lepore presents a balanced overview of the causes and effects of this conflict and the reverberations it would have over the centuries to follow, ultimately revealing that how a past event is interpreted is often just as important as the event itself. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Shortly before his death in 1675, John Sassamon warned the governor of Plymouth Colony that Philip, a Wampanoag Indian leader, was about to attack English settlers. When Sassamon was found dead, indications pointed to murder. Three Wampanoag Indians were tried, convicted, and executed. Days later, Philip and his followers began attacking and destroying one English settlement after another. Colonial armies retaliated, killing Indian warriors on the battlefield and their families in the villages. Rather than providing a battle-by-battle description, Lepore (history, Boston Univ.) presents the war through the diaries, books, articles, and dramas written about it. Her major theme is that wars and their histories cannot be separated. Wars generate their own narratives, serving to define the geographical, political, cultural, and national boundaries between warring peoples. A unique approach to historical interpretation, this book will appeal to academic libraries and those that specialize in early American history. (Illustrations not seen.)?Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375702628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375702624
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Be warned, if you're looking for a history of King Philip's War then this is not the book for you. Instead what Lepore is investigating is the ways that colonial New Englanders conceived of the war and, by extension their identity. As part of the new wave of cultural history that is coming out of the universities this book represents what is great and frustrating about that movement. On one level the book is, at times, a great look at how early white New Englanders conceived of their identity, the lengths to which they would go to defend this identity, and the ways in which they would justify this defense. Like great cultural history it gives us a vivid peak into the minds of the people it studies, thereby giving us a better understanding of how they thought and lived. On the other hand the book is, at times, frustrating in that it contains elements of the worst aspects of post modern history. Lepore gets carried away sometimes and lets her study drift too far into the realms of philosophy or literary criticism. Two examples I think illustrate this trend. At one point Lepore spends several pages in a great examination of the contradiction that the colonists felt: on one hand they feared that proximity to the native Americans would turn them into savages, on the other hand if they moved to exterminate the natives then they would lose that quality of justice and mercy that defined them as Englishmen. After laying out this excurtiating argument Lepore tritely concludes that the solution to the problem was that the Colonists would wage a war against the natives and then write histories of it that would justify their actions. While this is undoubtedly what happened it doesn't pass muster as a historical solution to the colonists dillema.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
In my last post I described how a short while ago, I decided to do a straight reading up on the history of my country. Not by a series of biographies or of any particular event; but a simple march through the ages exploring all the eras of the United States of America. The first challenge is to find books that try their best to explore from multiple perspectives avoiding just one narrow view, without at the same time surrendering a general narrative that is both readable and enjoyable. The second challenge is determining where to start. I suppose I could start at the American Revolution or all the way back to Mesopotamia. I finally decided to start with A History of England by Clayton and David Roberts. After getting done with the mother county I moved on to this book by Jill Leopre, generally because of Leopre's reputation of exploring history with memory. Her book deals with early English colonists and how they related to and fought with Native American tribes. Lepore's dealing with both points of view (colonist and Native) during the colonial era surrounding the events leading up to, during, and aftermath of King Phillip's War.

Jill Lepore's book is about one of earliest wars in American history and how the conflict would shape the identity of both sides involved. Lepore writes of colonists that left England for the purpose of religious separatism yet are always concerned about losing their Englishness due to the Natives' presence, and also the Native tribes willingness to explore this relationship while it benefited them balanced with their concern about losing their tribal and cultural identity due to the presence of the English.
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Format: Hardcover
Three centuries ago, New England Native Americans were forced into war with the English colonists who had been gradually destroying the native economy by stealing their land, interfering with their hunting, fishing, and farming, etc. The resulting war, known as King Philip's War, decimated the English population and very nearly rid New England of whites entirely. English technology and European diseases ultimately won out over theWampanoags and their allies; there was never again an "Indian threat" in New England. "The Name of War" recounts the struggle as told in English accounts; official documents, diaries, and letters. Author Jill Lepore makes the point that history is always written by the victor. What makes the retelling of King Philip's War so one-sided is the fact that the conquered, the Native American tribes, had no written language in which to tell their side of the story. Very few natives of that time could read or write English and, if they left any accounts of the war, they have never been discovered. Lepore goes on to show that what subsequent generations of Americans thought about the war was based entirely on the writings of the colonists and later, anglo scholars and writers. Their view of the Native American ranged from pagan devil-worshippers, as shown by the Mathers and other early religious leaders, to Noble Savage (Cooper) and finally, Vanishing American (The Curse of Metamora). These attitudes, calcified in books and plays, became the stones upon which later White treatment of Indian nations in other parts of the country were based. The final confrontation at Wounded Knee two hundred years after King Philip's War, had its birth in the earliest chronicles of the seventeent-century.Read more ›
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