Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James Axtell


The Indian wars of early New England were traumatic events. During King Philip's, King William's, and Queen Anne's Wars (1675 to 1715) dozens of towns sustained attacks, and English communities and their inhabitants were buffeted and challenged by the experience. The scholarship on colonial warfare and New England as a whole has focused on change and development that occurred as a result of these wars. War places great stress on individuals and societies, forcing them to act in new ways and often to reevaluate and abandon old habits. New Englanders and their communities did change dramatically as a result of repeated wars with the region's natives and their French allies. Yet New Englanders were also resistant to change, and this persistence of core culture ideals is often as historians analyze the transformation of New England from colonies to provinces.;Beyond the extensive physical damage, the conflicts challenged the identities and values of English colonists in myriad ways. In the midst of battle, many men failed to live up to the expectations of their gender, while some women stepped beyond theirs to act in a manly fashion. Despite the troubling behavior of cowardly men and manly women, gender norms and roles in New England did not change under the pressures of Indian wars, in part due to the uncoordinated management by ecclesiastical and political leaders of the narratives of the conflicts. Alternately chastising and praising their constituents, leaders offered examples of "proper" behavior, reasserted control over "amazons" and "viragos," and created larger-than-life heroes.;Indian raids forced hundreds of English settlers from their homes, putting great stress on towns and colonies and creating the dilemma of either aiding refugees (and abandoning the traditional insular nature of towns) or excluding and expelling them (failing John Winthrop's exhortation to bind together). Historians argue that traditional aid through family and towns was incapable of meeting the demand. Instead, New England's governments responded by relieving towns of this responsibility. However, this aid was actually limited and narrowly directed. Towns remained exclusive, gathering in those they were obliged to aid through familial or proprietary connections and allowing outsiders to remain only conditionally. Following the natural hierarchy of their community, refugees sought to support themselves before turning to family and friends, and sought town and colony aid only when traditional sources were exhausted.;Finally, in the midst of Indian wars, New Englanders often had to "dispose of" captured Indians. Having suffered grievously in the wars, New Englanders might have abandoned the law (albeit English law for Englishmen) and exacted revenge. Many prisoners suffered vigilante justice, and others faced servitude or public execution after a formal trial. New Englanders are rightly criticized for their actions, but while the colonists' treatment of prisoners was "uncivil" by modern standards, when viewed through the context of the time, New England's leaders tempered the "rage of the people," and the colonies remained within bounds of tradition and law.;New Englanders resisted changes to the core cultural ideas and institutions of patriarchy, localized community, and morality based in English law. Though these notions of gender, community, and morality were battered by war, they survived and remained central to New England identity.



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