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The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America
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The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,232 Ratings  ·  106 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 March 28th 1995 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1994)
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Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
London 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
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-work, history
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
Richard Moss
Sep 13, 2016 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
Mary Lou
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it
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
May 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.

Helen Major
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a vitally important subject in view of the appalling lack of awareness of our country's history of both the native peoples and the European peoples interactions.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great insight into life and attitudes in early Americal settlements and a great call for tolerance and acceptance at the end. Highly recommended
WELL. That took a while.

The Unredeemed Captive is well-written and painstakingly researched. It tends toward the scholarly side of historical writing, which slows down the narrative. American history isn't my bag, and combined with the scholarly bent of the book, I found myself nodding off a lot; this isn't to be taken as a criticism of Demos or the story, though. This is a well-done book about a skipped-over piece of American history and, if you LIKE American history and can handle scholarly wr
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The subject is very intriguing: an English girl captured by the French supporting Indians ultimately refuses to return to her home and family. The excessive quotation of single words and short phrases made it rather ponderous reading. The book is extremely detailed in its description and documentation of this particular event which makes it better as a reference or for readers who want to go that deep.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Exceedingly well researched history of American Puritan captives during the early 1700's. Particularly focused on Eunice Williams, captured as a young girl, and refused to be returned to her English family after being raised by the Iroquois. The delicate balance between the English, French, and Indians, as well as the Puritan vs. Catholicism culture, is explored. This book was recommended to me because of my interest in Paulette Jiles's novels, The News of the World and The Color of Lightening.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Utterly fascinating read. Written not quite like a novel but not like any other historical non-fiction book I’ve ever read either. It was as though the story was unfolding right before my eyes in real time.

This is the intimate story not only of a family, but of a community and the scars of a terrifying time in history that branded them and their ancestors for the rest of their lives.

Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I tried to like this book. It just didn't work out. I think that the facts, upon facts, may not always be 'the facts'. I do admit that I gave up 50-60 pages through, and I really hate to give up on anything, especially historical, but not a scholar. The premise I thought was good, I just couldn't carry on to find the redeemed value.
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
History told in story form: a good proposition, but this is exactly what I would expect it to be. Dry, confusingly worded at times, repetitive at others.
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Lauren Hopkins
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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