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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,560 ratings  ·  99 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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3.95  · 
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 ·  1,560 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Aug 17, 2014 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
May 19, 2008 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
Jan 17, 2015 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
Jan 07, 2012 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.
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
Jeremy Perron
Jul 04, 2012 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 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
Nov 02, 2011 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
Aug 08, 2011 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.
Scottsdale Public Library
When we read about history past, how can we know how much of what we read is true? Much of history is written based on what someone wrote down. Therefore, much of history could be said to be biased. Between the years of 1675 and 1682, there were twenty-one separate, printed, accounts of King Philip’s War which took place in southern New England, the majority published in London. King Philip, an Algonquian Indian whose real name was Metacom, was killed in August 1676 although the war did not end ...more
Kelli Peters
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Throughout the early years of European settlement in North America, the language used to describe interactions with Native Americans played an important role in the early formation of American identity. As Jill Lepore describes in "The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origin of American Identity", early English settlers were concerned with their identity; they wanted to clearly define themselves as separate from Englishmen, but worried about becoming too similar to Native Americans in the ...more
Sep 26, 2012 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
Pádraig Lawlor
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, Jill Lepore seeks to analyze a conflict between Native Americans and colonists residing in New England. Both factions erupted into the brutal conflict known King Philip's War, named after Philip, the leader of the Wampanoag Indians. Exclusive to Lepore's argumentative framework is her concentrated focus on war and memory. Indeed, her examination concerns the role of recollection in the field of historical analyses and wh ...more
Frederick Channell
Aug 17, 2012 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.
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
I knew I was going to love this book when the author quoted Jeanette Winterson on the first page.
Kyle Sullivan
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simply an extraordinary book. The author commands the subject with fine-tuned detail and targeted ruminations that have a direct line of input with what US nationalism is and with what the nature of all wars everywhere, across time, might be. Wars are a contest of blood, yes, but importantly a contest of narratives.

King Phillip's War was immediately a war of combative worldviews. The invaders, English people highly animated by a particular version of Christianity, sought to justify their occupa
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I wish Jill Lepore could write the history of everything! In a sense, that's what she does with these dense, dutifully, EXHAUSTIVELY conceived essays, which take various strains of the King Philip's War story as points of departure for more universal concerns. She is obsessed with how we create and alter cultural identities through storytelling, memory keeping, adaptations, religious doctrine, political exploitation, and all the self-preserving behaviors we adopt when we're uncomfortable confron ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Whether you agree with her theoretical framework or not, there's a massive amount of interesting primary sources that she deftly uses in her research, and the writing is fantastic. Yes, she's a bit callous towards the plights of the colonists. But they were an invading force, who clearly were bent on Christianizing the natives before wiping them out altogether. Seems fair enough.

Lapore's look into the creation, production, and reception of the texts of the time and those that followed the 'war'
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-us
The Name of War isn't a narrative history, and doesn't care if you know what actually happened during King Philip's War. Instead, Lepore explores questions of identity and memory. In the process, she reveals a war that, despite being famously brutal, was surprisingly sophisticated. The Algonquians understood what made the English tick and, fed up with attempts to enforce Englishness, begin a campaign to destroy the colonists' sense of self and reclaim their own.

My one frustration with this book
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i learned so much about this conflict and the competing narratives surround it! the author does a very good job of citing sources, providing context, and presenting the motives, biases, or information/lack of information that various sources could have been influenced by. she also does a great job of bringing the relevance of rhetoric surrounding King Philip's War and how it is viewed by Americans of various demographics into the present. i would definitely read a history book by Jill Lepore aga ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Can I halfway review a book that I half-read? I grew up in the area where most of this history takes place, I like reading about Native American history, I have *thoroughly* enjoyed all other books I've read by Jill Lepore ... but this book was so ... well not exactly boring. I guess I'm used to Lepore using story to tell a history - weaving together events and people and making a lot of interesting connections that really add to understanding a person or moment in time, in context. This book ju ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mb-research, own
This not a straight history of King Philip's War, so it was helpful to have some knowledge of the war and the times. She does discuss the causes of the war and the major players and discusses some of the engagements in the war, but more from the aspect of what it meant to each side rather than details of what happened. Her exploration of the role of literacy in the lives of some Indians is fascinating. A compelling, indeed I would say indispensable, exploration of the origins of white American's ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Overall, this is a fantastic telling of the events leading up to, that that happened during, King Philip's war.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the book and the end of the book get pretty bogged down by things that don't seem that relevant. There is a long, over descriptive chapter about the different publications about the war, which pulled me out of the events, and I ended up skipping most of (a risk considering this book was assigned for a class).

Take note that the book is rather graphic, with
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was very, very excited for this book. All throughout reading it, I was very excited for that feeling of having a unique argument presented — and it took all the way for the epilogue for Lepore to really build her case and make her argument. That epilogue is fascinating, and great.

Unfortunately, a lot of the buildup to it was a bit of a slog. Lepore (or her editors) made the odd choice not to modernize the syntax and spelling of any of her 17th-century sources, which makes them tough to read th
Anna Schechter
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the best books I've read about war, and a war I knew nothing of beforehand. It stressed the importance of words, the cultural value of words and literacy, as a weapon of war, which is applicable to the telling and retelling of every conflict.
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
A timely, sometimes unsettling read. The fairly lofty historiographical promises of the opening wash out a bit in the detailed accounts that follow unless you have a lot of stamina. Still, I’m glad I read it.
Ted Haussman
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it

I really thought she did an admirable job with a spare record. And no, the book was not so much ABOUT King Phillips' War as it was about writing, language, and how people employed it to frame a narrative.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brainy, native, americana
Started reading this in preparation for an upcoming museum collections program. Found the writing compelling and the (ongoing) conflict remains relevant today (although the context shifts depending on how you look at it). Apparently American identity is still a work in progress.
Aaron Brame
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jill Lepore is a master. This is a dense read full of the goriest of details from King Philip's War. My wife had to ask me to stop sharing things I learned from this book, as she found them too disturbing. Read it.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing piece of research and writing. Especially impressed by the last chapter, "The Rock," which makes the story of the war relevant not just to English identity in 1675-6 but to Indian identity today.
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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
“How do people reconcile themselves to war’s worst cruelties?” 0 likes
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