When I first started researching the New England Puritans for my novel, Flight of the Sparrow, I didn’t know much more about the 1600’s than what I’d learned in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter and Henry Miller’s play The Crucible. Like many Americans, my knowledge of history skipped straight from the First Thanksgiving to the Revolution. What I discovered as I dug into that 150 year gap was a complex and turbulent era, dominated by the collision of two very different cultures.
When the Puritans came to southern New England shores in the 1620’s and 1630’s, they found a region of cleared fields and game-rich forests, only sparsely populated by Natives. Unaware that their countrymen had introduced the European diseases that ravaged Native tribes, they believed that the land had been “opened” for them by God. For the next fifty years they bartered and bullied their way up and down the New England coast and into the interior, expanding their land holdings and imposing their laws, unimpeded by the Natives or their own consciences.
In 1675, that expansion was interrupted by the opening hostilities of King Philip’s War. The conflict remains the bloodiest war per capita in American history. Yet it is a war that many of us have never heard of. It was, at its heart, the collision of two very old and very different cultures, cultures which had two distinct views of human history and purpose, and deeply incompatible views on the proper human relationship to the land.
This blog will attempt to explore the many facets of the collision between those cultures. Some posts will focus on the world of the Puritans, some on the world of the Natives, and some on the events and circumstances before, during, and after King Philip’s War itself.
My hope is that it will prove interesting and thought-provoking. On a more selfish note, I look forward to sharing some of the information and insights that didn’t make it into the novel.