Book review: The Name of War, King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity | TheUnion.com
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Book review: The Name of War, King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity

By Jill Lepore

Alfred A. Knopf, 1998



This is a scholarly history of the way people wrote about Philip’s War, the Indian uprising of the 1670s that nearly destroyed the fledgling English colonies in New England.




Lepore contends that wars are fought with weapons and with words, first to destroy the enemy and then to justify the horrific actions of war. When the war was in progress the Indians, led by Philip, were denounced as cruel and murderous savages. A century later, as sympathy grew for American Indians who had been driven from their lands, Philip was resurrected as a noble savage standing up for his people, and likened to an Indian version of George Washington.

Two of my ancestors, Nathaniel Sutliff and John Plympton, died in the war, so I had a personal interest in reading about it. Fortunately they died after their children were born, or I would not be writing this review.

But this scholarly book is heavy reading unless you really want to know how people wrote about this particular war.

The peculiar title comes from a comment at the time, that the cruel and barbarous troubles did not “deserve the name of war.”

– Curt Sutliff,

Nevada City


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