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THE NAME OF WAR by Jill Lepore


King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity

by Jill Lepore

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-44686-9
Publisher: Knopf

 A superb study of an all-but-forgotten war that, in the author's view, had a profound effect on Anglo-American perceptions of the Indian. First-time author Lepore (History/Boston Univ.) offers an account of the bloody war in 1675 between English settlers and Algonquian Indians in New England, a ``short, vicious'' conflict that, by proportion of population, ``inflicted greater casualties than any other war in American history.'' Her account is peppered with more than the usual atrocities: Men, women, even children are tortured and murdered, whole cities burned. It is also riddled with mysteries; as Lepore notes, the war began thanks to rumor, an unsolved murder, and pent-up but vague hatreds among peoples who had become more and more like one another. The English, far from home, had adopted Native American customs and cuisine, had stopped attending church, had moved farther and farther inland and away from European settlements. The Indians, for their part, had taken to wearing Western clothes, living in houses, and reading the Bible. With identities thus confused, each side waged a war that the other condemned as brutal and savage, and thousands died in the bargain. Lepore's account of the war has the immediacy of journalism, as well as learned asides about anthropological theories of conflict, the effect of literacy on hitherto preliterate populations, the nature of ethnic strife, and, most important, the memory of King Philip's War in New England. That grim memory, she suggests, tempered later policies of war and removal. The war itself continues to resonate today as Native Americans press their claims for land first lost in the conflict's aftermath. ``In the end, this book is just another story about just another war,'' Lepore writes, with wholly undue modesty. Vivid and thoughtful, it is much more than that, and it holds the promise of much good work to come. (33 illustrations, 2 maps, not seen)