The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity by Jill Lepore

The Name of War is a study of King Philip’s War, a bloody conflict in New England that began in 1675. “King Philip” was a name given to Metacom, an Indian who lead the fight against the English colonists. Lepore doesn’t focus on the war’s chronology. She is concerned with the war’s meaning, which she discusses in relatively academic terms (“the consequences of literacy, the power of print, the negotiation of identity, the suppleness of memory”). Her principal conclusion is that the Indians never got a chance to tell their side of the story — they didn’t win and didn’t write books. Many of those who survived the war didn’t even get to stay in America — they were loaded onto ships and sold into slavery in the West Indies. 

King Philip’s War was the subject of popular memoirs, histories and theatrical performances (none written by Indians) for almost 200 years. But it’s not clear how much the war affected American perceptions of the Indians as the years went by. Many residents of New England opposed Andrew Jackson’s policy of removing Indians from their homes in the South during the 1830’s, even though their English ancestors had accomplished pretty much the same thing years before.  (7/11/11)

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