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

Author and Professor of Early American History at Harvard University Jill Lepore spoke about her book, The Name of War, during a presentation at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on December 1, 2010. Lepore traces the meanings attached to this brutally destructive war and examines early colonial accounts that depict King Philip’s men as savages and interpret the war as a punishment from God, She begins her talk by referencing 19th century depictions of the Pilgrims and Indians getting along very well, something that she believed in third grade. She then goes on to talk about how the war was first described in contemporary accounts like that of Increase Mather’s 1676 account and discusses how the narrative of the war is retold a century later to rouse anti-British sentiment during the Revolution. She points out the romanticized picture of Indians first seen in the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company and then describes how the story of King Philip is transformed yet again in the early nineteenth century to portray King Philip as a proud ancestor and American patriot in the play Metamora, the last of the Wampanoags.

Click here for the 42-minute video of her presentation.