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

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,056 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Winner of the the 1998 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of the Phi Beta Kappa Society

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."

Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 27th 1999 by Vintage (first published January 20th 1998)
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Jan 17, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
Thorough and intellectually ambitious. This isn't really a history of King Philip's War (1675-6); if you're looking for a narrative of the conflict you'll be disappointed. It is rather a study of the way that the experience and memory of the war was constructed by the English colonists of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Rhode Island, and Connecticut during the war years and immediately following, how that construction contributed to the construction of early American identity, and how it was actively u ...more
Jeremy Perron
Jul 04, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it liked it
In my last post I described how a short while ago, I decided to do a straight reading up on the history of my country. Not by a series of biographies or of any particular event; but a simple march through the ages exploring all the eras of the United States of America. The first challenge is to find books that try their best to explore from multiple perspectives avoiding just one narrow view, without at the same time surrendering a general narrative that is both readable and enjoyable. The secon ...more
David Bates
May 22, 2013 David Bates rated it really liked it
Jill Lepore’s 1998 work The Name of War explores one of the flash points where violence blazed up in the late 17th century – the uprising known alternately as King Philips War and Metacom’s Rebellion. A meditation on war, and the way the colonists chose to portray it in words in order to understand its meaning and justify their actions, Lepore’s fundamental concern is to understand the issues of identity which were in her view both the war’s cause and lasting effect. The collapse of the politica ...more
The Name of War is a thematically-structured meditation on the violent and significant conflict known as King Philip's War, fought between English colonists and Native Americans in 1675-6. The fighting occurred primarily in New England between, on the one hand, English colonists of the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies, the Mohegan and Pequot tribes along with so-called "praying Indians" who had converted to Christianity, and on the other hand, the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Abenaki and ...more
May 19, 2008 Ram rated it did not like it
"The colonists MUST have FELT, as the Indians' flaming arrows PENETRATED the SKINS of the white MAN'S houses, that they THEMSELVES WERE BEING PENETRATED by the DARK OTHERS whose own violence was now being WRITTEN ON the BODY as well as the LANDSCAPE in bold strokes."

If you like speculation and taking flimsy evidence and using it to put words in the mouths of historical actors, then you'll dig this book. Postmodern, literary techniques work sometimes to tell the stories of persons who cannot spea
Aug 17, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
Truly fantastic. Lepore has mastered the art of history-telling; she tells the story as straight as it can be told from the historical record, and makes incisive connections to other historical events, eras, and emotional epochs. If history had been old like this when I was in school, many fewer kids would have hated it. Also, many fewer kids would have turned into unthinking, racist, 'Merica First! assholes. Nuance and empathy are important parts of understanding what has happened before so tha ...more
Jan 07, 2012 Tim rated it it was ok
Lepore's work here disappointed. She has obviously done substantial research, I just do not find her theoretical framework all that satisfying. Maybe I do not fancy books about "the worst fatal war in American history" that analyze language and memory and lack much human sympathy. A work that takes the "English" to task for not understanding the Wampanoag but seems fairly nonchalant in its lack of understanding (and frankly stereotypical portrayal) of the Puritan.
Nov 02, 2011 Brian rated it it was ok
In the Name of War is a revisionist interpretation of King Philips War. This is not a history of the war and provides an example of how the colonists at the time interpreted various aspects of the war. From seizing of colonists to selling Indians into slavery the effects of the war were traced throughout the war period. The brutality of the war is captured through the narrative that she lays out but in the end you really have to be interested in the time period to get something out of it. Like m ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Charlotte rated it really liked it
The Name of War is a fascinating account of King Philip's War, a violent and bloody affair in which the second generation New England Colonists were pitted against King Philip (Metacom) and various indigeous peoples of the area. As each side fights this war to maintain their cultural identity, each group inevitably changes. These changes impact what later becomes a cultural identity unique to the United States. If you love history, Colonial American history, war history, or just enjoy reading ab ...more
Josh Kuperman
Feb 07, 2016 Josh Kuperman rated it really liked it
This is fascinating to me for two reasons: King Philips head was kept on a pike during thanksgiving celebrations in Plymouth for many years following the end of King Philip's war in 1676 - ish. I first became aware of this, as the fate of the son of Massasoit - was discussed on a C-SPAN Book TV presentation. While the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and their tenuous survival is part of the American foundation myth - King Philips war is largely ignored, outside New England it might eve be comp ...more
Mike Hankins
Dec 22, 2015 Mike Hankins rated it it was amazing
Great book, I've found it valuable not just for military history or colonial history, but for understanding US history in a broader sense, this book has application far beyond it's own topic.

It's a study of King Phillip's War, but not of the war itself so much as how people on both sides conceived of the war, talked about it, and remembered it. It reveals the degree to which colonists associated Indians with evil, how much they sought a war of extermination in which killing civilians was ok or e
Joseph Stieb
Aug 04, 2015 Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it
This is a study of war, culture, language, and memory in regards to King Philip's War. Those who complain that it isn't really a history of the war itself probably should have looked at a review before they read this book. It's also not really about the Origins of American Identity because most of the colonists she focuses on considered themselves English and fought to retain that identity.

So we are left with a vague title and a book that is really more like a set of loosely connected essays, ea
Sep 02, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
Jill LePore's "The Name of War" is a fascinating read; the book explores questions about how we, as humans, remember and record history, and what faults our methods have. As the name of the book suggests, LePore's novel deals mostly with how language plays a role in how history, particularly King Philip's War is remembered, as the name of King Philip's War varies depending upon who is asked.

"The Name of War" is probably the easiest summer read I've ever done for a history class; it was interest
Alicia Duff
Dec 11, 2014 Alicia Duff rated it really liked it
I went to my local library and decided to pick out a book exploring my local history. I've always been fascinated about the history of New England, especially the facts and opinions surrounding and leading to King Philip's War. This book highly appealed to me after reading the inside jacket summary and learning about Jill Lepores renowned background in History topics. In this book, Lepore spends a significant amount of time detailing and analyzing the attacks put forth beginning in 1675 from bot ...more
Eric Marcy
Jul 17, 2015 Eric Marcy rated it really liked it
An excellent exploration of an obscure bit of American history. Lepore takes a fascinating, almost literary criticism approach to history, and rather than giving a linear recounting of events, she tackles the philosophy, religion, language, tactics and motivations behind both Native Americans and English colonists. The results are incredibly provocative, and the harrowing accounts of the conflict, as well as the way in which Native Americans and their concerns were effectively silenced by "barba ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Doug rated it it was ok
I started reading this book after I found out that one of my ancestors was killed in King Philip's War at the Battle of the Great Swamp, December 1675. The first two thirds of the book was OK - how did the war start? what was each side's greivance? But the last third was awful.
Frederick Channell
Aug 17, 2012 Frederick Channell rated it did not like it
Had to read this for a Colonial History class in college. Three other classmates did also. We all hated it. As dated as Flintlocks and Tomahawks is, it is a far better book on the war.
Jun 03, 2015 John rated it liked it
I did enjoy this, but I had more and more problems with it as it progressed. I don't think it really delivers what it wants to deliver, most prominently what is promised in the title - "the Origins of American Identity." I've read what Lepore has for me here, and I have to say I don't really buy that King Phillips War had this kind of massive three century intellectual impact. I don't even really buy that it had this massive 150 year impact that Lepore gets into in the last section of the book, ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Malcolm rated it it was amazing
This is quite simply outstanding. King Philip's War – or whatever it should best be called – is not only one of the forgotten conflicts of American colonial history but of colonial history in all – but then so much indigenous resistance is written out of memory and our experiences of the past. Jill Lepore's concern is not with reconstructing what happened, but with exploring how the war was understood at the time, remembered after the event, and deployed in 19th and 20th century US history and p ...more
Jul 08, 2009 Yveva rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prof-dev-history
so far I am really diggin' the introduction.

Prologue: English situated themselves as not Savages (like Indians) and not Cruel (like Spanish). They were worried about assimilating with Indians and becoming more savage, fighting this war would distance themselves from Indians, but to win they would have to commit savage acts. They had learned from other wars that by winning they would also be able to record the story of the war, a written record would be a way of winning the war all over again. Di
Michael Lindy
Sep 14, 2012 Michael Lindy rated it liked it
If someone is looking for an in-depth historical analysis of the use of language in King Phillip's War, he or she will find no better source than "The Name of War". If one is merely looking for a general analysis of King Phillip's War, or is just interested in colonial American history, "The Name of War" is still a great find. If one is looking for a story filled with exciting adventure, intrigue, romance, and suspense, one might wish to look elsewhere. That is not to say, of course, that "The N ...more
Barksdale Penick
Nov 23, 2013 Barksdale Penick rated it really liked it
Another in the series of influential book about American history that my daughter the budding scholar sent my way. I had never before of this conflict in the 1600s between the New England natives and the English settlers, but it ended as one would expect, with the natives unable to overcome the settlers. They didn't have reservations then, but the Indians were either killed, sold into slavery, or pushed to the fringes of society, and in most cases it didn't really matter if any particular Native ...more
Sherry Chandler
Jul 04, 2013 Sherry Chandler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I suppose it is appropriate that I should finish Jill Lepore's The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity on this Independence Day when Johnny Depp, in his role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, is being widely castigated as yet another white man playing a Native American on stage or screen.

If not the first, perhaps the most famous white man to base a whole career on playing an Indian was Edwin Forrest, a 19th century actor whose play Metamora turned King Philip into a "n
Feb 15, 2016 Bruinrefugee rated it it was ok
My issue with this book is that it's less history and more a meditation on narratives -- who constructs them and what it's supposed to mean re: various power relationships. Personally, I find that much less interesting than what actually happened in this tragic, violent denouement to the relationship between the Massachussets settlers (Pilgrims, et al) and the local Indian tribes. There are pieces of great interest here but the thrust of the book made it tedious.
Alexander Kennedy
Nov 12, 2015 Alexander Kennedy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: colonial-america
Lepore's analysis of memory and war is very fascinating. She examines how war is fought with words as well as with weapons. The Puritans could not just win the military battle; they also had to win the written war to justify their actions. While she is discussing King Philip's War, her analyses is worth being read by any student of war. She also delves into propaganda and symbolic acts like the stealing of Philip's jaw bone well after his death.
Mar 03, 2011 Kerry rated it really liked it
Jill Lepore’s book The Name of War provides a unique perspective on how we have come to understand the events and significance of King Philip’s War. Lepore clearly illustrates how sensational writing has affected the lasting interpretations of these events, incensing not only the people of the seventeenth century but continuing to outline the framework for how this violence is studied today.

In her introduction, Lepore states that “truth in war is relative.” Her analysis of the publications and
Wendy G
Dec 14, 2013 Wendy G rated it really liked it
Really great history of early America. Jill Lepore is tracing the history and the public memory of King Philip's War, which devastated the New England colonies in the 1670s. One hundred years before the American Revolution, colonists defined themselves as English and clung to this identity, especially living so far from home and in such close proximity to Native Americans. While colonists' demands for space increased, some New England tribes felt squeezed out of their homes, and pushed closer to ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It's important to note that "The Name of War" is not a traditional history of King Philip's war. It is, rather an interpretive cultural history of the causes, contemporary effects and legacy of the 1675 conflict.

Lepore spends much of the book focusing on the written records left by the New England colonists and the lack of same by their Algonquian enemies. This leads her to somewhat stretched speculation as to the thoughts and motives of the Indians, but that much is forgivable due to the near
Alex Woods
Sep 07, 2013 Alex Woods rated it really liked it
The Name of War was far more interesting than other books I've read for History. I'd never heard of King Philip's War, and this book was a great way to become acquainted with it. Rather than just telling the of King Philip's War, Lepore works to analyze what it meant for the development of the cultural identification of those involved-- English, Americans, and Indians. She presents intriguing primary sources and uses them to allow the reader to experience what the war must have actually been lik ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Jeff rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This book is deceptively named, in my opinion. It should be titled "The EFFECT of King Philip's war..." as it spends absolutely no time on the history of the war itself. It is full of interesting trivia and so I didn't give it only one star but it is NOT about King Philip's War itself. Most frustrating for me, since I wrongly expected a history of the war, was how the author spends the vast majority of the book using the war as a springboard for her own speculations, some defensible and interest ...more
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Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History, Harvard College Professor, and chair of Harvard's History and Literature Program. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best non-fiction book on race, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Name of War (Knopf, 1998), winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson P
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