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The Unredeemed Captive

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,045 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
In 1704 an Indian war party descended on a Massachusetts village, abducting a Puritan minister and his children. The minister was released, but his daughter chose to stay with her captors. Her extraordinary story is one of race, religion, and the conflict between two cultures.
Paperback, 316 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1994)
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John
Dec 01, 2010 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most compelling and readable works of history I encountered all year. And I read a lot of history. This is a scholarly work, but it was written with kind of a fiction tone, and Demos uses a lot of speculation to get inside people's heads and really ponder their experiences. This does what all great works of history are supposed to do, it analyzes a time that seems somewhat incomprehensible to people today. Imagine, if you will (especially those of you who live in small New England tow ...more
Karen
Feb 04, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a historical novel, it is a fantastic book and a wonderful read. Unfortunately, it wasn’t billed as such, and as an historical text, there are some significant issues here. Most critically, Demos in places confuses the Mohawks involvement with what were actually Abenaki, and he also seems to have ignored the historiography that was emerging in the Native American field at that time (especially the New Indian History), that should have greatly impacted his interpretation (Richard White’s The M ...more
Josie
Feb 03, 2012 Josie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I am not a history major, clearly. I only made it 50 pages into this book and couldn't imagine slogging my way through the rest. I love the "story" here, but Demos was clearly more focused on primary sources and fact...after fact...after fact... Minute details distracted from what could have been a fascinating telling of this incident. I don't need four pages of historical text (in ye olde americaine englysh no less) of what possessions each townsperson lost in the massacre, followed by a single ...more
Bruce
Jun 15, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Demos sets the story of white captives in context. The taking of John Williams and his family, among others during a raid on Deerfield, Mass. by Indians allied to the French is the beginning of the 'story.' Eunice Williams, his daughter, was not returned to New England when others in the group were traded back for Frenchmen held captive in New England or ransomed. Eunice was adopted by an Indian family when she was 'captured.' Later she married an Indian and became completely acculturated to ...more
Mscout
Jan 18, 2012 Mscout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Demos is an historian of another age. He was trained during a time when historians were struggling to be recognized as more than mere stenographers of past events. As a result, narrative history was shoved aside in favor of a more (if not almost purely) analytical approach that stressed interpretation of the stories rather than the telling of them. This was unfortunate as he “had been drawn to history by the stories.” As the subtitle to this work suggests, however, he has come back to that ...more
Jana
Mar 04, 2014 Jana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I have much to learn! I thought Cotton Mather was a character in The Crucible (close, but no). And John Williams is a composer (yes, but in this case we're dealing with the Puritan Minister who became famous for the account of his experiences called THE REDEEMED CAPTIVE).

This is a very well written, very detailed account of a massacre and capture of New England colonists by the French & Indians of "New France". Not really a spoiler, due to the name of the book, but most of the focus ends up
...more
Matt
Oct 10, 2013 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 2/3 of this non-fiction tale is quite interesting: in colonial New England, an English/protestant minister and his family are taken captive to Canada by Mohawk Indians who happen to be Catholic by way of French missionaries. The family is divided, but over time most of them are returned to New England in prisoner exchanges, except for the youngest daughter. She eventually assimilates and converts to Catholicism as her relatives fight for years after to redeem her from a "captivity" tha ...more
Liz
Aug 19, 2014 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, for-work
This well-written history narrative provides excellent insight into how an historian's mind works. It is a history book that tells a gripping story that reads like a detective novel.

The Unredeemed Captive tells the story of Eunice Williams and her family. On the night of February 29, 1704, French-allied Native Americans raided the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts. The raid came early in Queen Anne's War (1702-1713), the second out of four wars waged between France and England for domination of N
...more
Mary Lou
Jan 24, 2011 Mary Lou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Social history suggested by my son, something he’d read for a course - liked the symmetry of the many beginnings/many endings structure - also liked the play on words in the title, ‘unredeemed’ meaning un-ransomed, unrepentant, and un’saved’ in terms of religious choice/belief. In 1704 Eunice Williams was about seven years old, part of a prominent Puritan clerical family living in Deerfield, Mass. when the community was attacked by French and Indians who killed many of the inhabitants and carri ...more
Megan
Mar 21, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of a New England family who was captured by Native Americans in the Deerfield Raid, which took place approximately in 1704. The daughter, Eunice, never did return to her family, she had multiple opportunities, but she chose to remain with the Native Americans. This book shows the attitudes the colonists had towards the Indians, the Indian captives, Catholics, the French, the Indian captives, etc, that chose to stay, etc.

This book I think would be i
...more
Katherine Addison
One of the things The Unredeemed Captive cemented for me is that my interest is in the phenomenon of Indian captivity, not the captivity narratives themselves. As conditions of their production, these narratives are written by Puritans who have rejected the alien culture (it's clear in The Unredeemed Captive just how alien the culture of the Kahnawake Indians(1) was to the early eighteenth century Puritans they captured, and that, at least, I suspect generalizes across the experiences of Puritan ...more
Hafsa
Dec 24, 2010 Hafsa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: misc
Facinating use of the imagination in retelling history. As a narrator of history and a scholar who is faced with critical gaps in the historical record as pertains to his subject, Demos deploys his own imagination when discussing how the various members in the family felt at different points in the narrative by critically examining their letters, the historical context around that time period, and the silences in their writings. The book is scholarly, but also fictional, which is what makes is c ...more
Londonmabel Mabel
Most reviews say this book is either super interesting, or way too detailed. It's both. Demos takes a story that could be covered a long magazine article and stretches it out into a book. But if you're interested in studying either New England or Kahnawake in the 17 and 18th centuries, then Demos' too-much-detail is great.

He quotes extensively from the sources, and then repeats in his own words what was just said, and then imagines and extrapolates on the material. The repeating and extrapolatin
...more
Leann
Jun 30, 2008 Leann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in history
Shelves: history
You gotta hand it to the author -- he did his research. This book contains information from numerous primary sources, and that is where the strengths of this book lie. The author delves off into trying to fill in the blanks left us by the primary sources, but that's not what he's good at. I found some of his "imaginings" of what happened to be quite different from what I imagined given the evidence he had presented. But overall, it was a fascinating look at life in the late 1600s to early 1700s, ...more
Kathy
May 01, 2010 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this heavily-researched book about a 7-year-old girl and her family who were captured by Indians in 1704 from their home in Deerfield, MA. Everyone in the family but young Eunice either died or was eventually returned to their home but she chose to stay with the tribe, marry an Indian man and live there for the rest of her life. It's astonishing how the author put together an entire book from the meager facts available about Eunice; much of the material revolved around the conflicts be ...more
Nisha
Apr 18, 2010 Nisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite historical book. I read it for two different classes and enjoyed it during both times. It's nice to read because while it give factual information, with some layers of speculation, it still runs the course of the story of the 'Unredeeemed captive', "Eunice".

It's really fascinating to read the meager facts about the life of this woman and the well documented attempts of her family to bring her back.

Amy
Sep 07, 2012 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, Puritan studies, Native American white captives, Deerfield
I had originally got this under the assumption it was fiction, but having an interest in First Nations/Native American and captive histories, I read through it. I did enjoy this book, and were is an option I would have actually given it more of a 3.5.

This review contains historical information involved in the book, I don't consider it a 'spoiler' as such.

This book centres around the Williams family and their initial capture and later redemption through ransom from the Mohawk tribe, following the
...more
Richard Moss
Sep 13, 2016 Richard Moss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I picked this up second hand, as I find the assimilation of captured white settlers into Native American tribes fascinating.

From John Ford's The Searchers to Philipp Meyer's The Son, they have been dealt with in fiction, but the Unredeemed Captive deals with a real-life case.

In the early 18th Century, church minister John Williams and his family are captured when their Massachusetts town is attacked. Some die, some are "redeemed" (released), but daughter Eunice remains with her captors.

But more
...more
Lauren Hopkins
Sep 18, 2013 Lauren Hopkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting account of the Williams family of Deerfield, who were captured during the massacre in 1704 and spent much of their lives trying to reunite. The book is at its core about the history of captives being forced to live among "savages" and how their return to "civilization" could "redeem" them. The Williams family is just one of many New England families dealing with a problem like this, but their case is unique - and the perfect case for this book - because most of the family was release ...more
Kallie
Dec 09, 2013 Kallie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has everything I want in a history/cultural study: great detail, a complete inclusion of cultural context, a voice that is compelling but never more important than the subject matter -- how violence, captivity, assimilation contributed to a much more mixed American culture than is usually discussed in American history. I am familiar with the topic as it revolves around peoples of the Southwest -- a diverse mix of Spanish European and many indigenous tribes from Mexico to p.d. Colorado. Ther ...more
Annie
Jul 20, 2016 Annie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2012 a professor assigned this book to me and, for unrelated reasons, I dropped the class. However, I kept the book and here I am 4 years later, finally finished with it.
Demos detailed treatment of a famous captive narrative is an excellent example of microhistory, just as the syllabus that told me to read it promised. As an archival technician, I was really impressed with his use of primary sources. Must have taken forever!
John Demos used the diaries and letters of the Williams family exte
...more
Caroline
Aug 16, 2008 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Impeccable scholarship, vital insights into culture conflicts of the past, and present.

This wonderful book is the best kind of popular history: uncompromising in the standards of its scholarship, yet accessible and fascinating to a broad, non-academic audience of readers interested in the nature of cultural identity, and clashing/co-existing societies. It tells the story of one family forcibly ruptured into two worlds, when an Indian raid carries off family members, including a seven-year-old d
...more
Vickie
Apr 25, 2016 Vickie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just happened upon this book and am so glad I did. I was drawn to it instantly because I have an ancestor who, like Eunice Williams, was captured by Native Americans, married into the tribe, bore children, and when given a chance to return to her birth family, refused. I thought our family story was unusual, but it turns out that such kidnappings and subsequent complete integration into tribes was common. There are many accounts of such kidnappings, the most famous of which is probably the cas ...more
Mark Schlatter
Interesting at times; frustrating at others.

A friend recommended this book after I raved about Empire of the Summer Moon. It has the same basic focus --- the story of a colonial woman captured by Native Americans who, as she grows up, comes to identify with and thrive in her new life. Each book uses that story as a lens through which to view both Native American and colonial culture.

I prefer Empire of the Summer Moon. Some of that (perhaps much of that) is due to the book's Texas setting. Moreov
...more
Amy
This is the story of Eunice Williams, and her family, who on one fateful night in the 1700s was split apart in an Indian raid on the Deerfield colony. Eunice Williams was captured at the age of 4, and remained with the tribe for the duration of her life. This is the story of her family's attempt to find her and reclaim her.

I ranked this only two stars because for the first half, the author strings together quotes from written letters to make long sentences, retaining the awful grammar and missp
...more
Lisa Lap
Boy did the author research his material for this book: the notes are definitely extensive and varied. The storytelling however, comes across as a bit dry and hard to read at times as the narrative is choppy and often zig-zag from different points of view. I recognize that this book shouldn't be viewed as historical fiction, but rather an account of actual history and the drastic ways that life changed for the captured Puritans during the wars of the late 1770's and I can appreciate that as a hi ...more
Linda
Jul 19, 2008 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
The Unredeemed Captive is a meticulously researched history. Not a historical novel, not a screenplay, it is intended to inform, not to entertain. If you approach this book with a clear understanding of its purpose, it is quite enjoyable. Eunice Williams' sister Esther, who was also taken captive, moved to the town where I now live and is buried in our oldest cemetery. Her very large tombstone tells something of her story. I've often wondered why, although they are both daughters of a minister w ...more
Amy
Dec 10, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nonfiction account set in colonial Massachusetts where, in 1704, a French and Indian war party descended on the village of Deerfield, abducting a Puritan minister and his children. Although John Williams was eventually released after several years in captivity in Canada, his daughter Eunice--who was 7 at the time of her capture--horrified the family by staying with her captors and eventually marrying a Mohawk husband. As a direct descendant of the Williams family (through Stephen Williams, Eun ...more
Dee
Aug 16, 2011 Dee rated it really liked it
John Demos writes a captivating narrative on the historical happenings in New England in the early 1700's. The kidnapping of a young girl and the story of trying to find her in the villages and surrounding forests, across the Canadian border and finally, finding her with the Indians after years of searching. It tells of the animosity between the French and the English, between the Catholics and the Protestants, between the whites and the Indians. It shows the humanity and lack of it in all the d ...more
Paul
Jun 30, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the tale of Eunice Williams, taken from her home in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in the Deerfield Massacre of February 29, 1704. She was eight years old. She died in 1785. She had married a Mohawk man and had by him two children. She lost her use of English, converted to Catholicism, and lived in the Indian fashion until the day of her death.

It is also the tale of the meeting of three cultures: the Catholic French in Canada, the Puritan English in New England, and the Native Americans (most
...more
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