Winner of the Bancroft Prize
King Philip's War, the excruciating racial war—colonists against Indians—that erupted in New England in 1675, was, in proportion to population, the bloodiest in American history. Some even argued that the massacres and outrages on both sides were too horrific to "deserve the name of a war."
The war's brutality compelled the colonists to defend themselves against accusations that they had become savages. But Jill Lepore makes clear that it was after the war—and because of it—that the boundaries between cultures, hitherto blurred, turned into rigid ones. King Philip's War became one of the most written-about wars in our history, and Lepore argues that the words strengthened and hardened feelings that, in turn, strengthened and hardened the enmity between Indians and Anglos.
Telling the story of what may have been the bitterest of American conflicts, and its reverberations over the centuries, Lepore has enabled us to see how the ways in which we remember past events are as important in their effect on our history as were the events themselves.
Winner of the the 1998 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of the Phi Beta Kappa Society
In King Philip's War of 1675, Algonquian Indians decimated more than half of the towns in New England, while the British massacred Indian settlements and shipped thousands of Algonquians out of the colonies as slaves. Though academic in style, this engrossing study by a Boston University history professor sheds new light on what is widely considered the most brutal and vicious war in American history (named after the Wampanoag leader Metacom, or Philip, who attacked Plymouth Colony). Analyzing colonists' diaries, letters and chronicles as well as captives' narratives, Lepore probes the deep-seated anxieties of the English settlers, who measured themselves not only against the "barbarian" Indians but also against the Spanish, whom the English self-righteously condemned for cruelty to Mexico's natives and to Protestants during the Inquisition. Memories of the war, kept alive for two centuries in plays, epic poems and histories, nurtured racist attitudes about Indians, according to the author. This study is full of valuable material on early English-Native contacts, on the widespread sale of Indians into foreign slavery and on relations between England and the elite of Christian Indians who mistakenly believed they would be spared from slavery. Illustrations not seen by PW.