The 2009 Key West Literary Seminar is looking back — specifically at historical fiction with some history thrown in. One of the historians we’ve invited is Jill Lepore and I just finished reading her book The Name of War, about King Philip’s War and how it has been recorded and interpreted in American history.
Sadly, I managed to grow up and receive an alleged education in New England and still had no clear idea what King Philip’s War was until I read “Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick last year. I thought it was one of the French and Indian Wars, since they’re named after royalty. Oops.
Philbrick’s book takes King Philip’s War as a kind of coda to the initial landing and establishment of the Plymouth Colony (it was Philip’s father, Massasoit, who made the initial contact and alliance with the English settlers, to the Native Americans’ later regret and dismay). It’s popular history, written with the layperson in mind. Lepore’s is more academic but still very accessible. And it’s really interesting on the whole issue of who controls the narrative of history, from the English settlers who initially wrote vivid accounts of the carnage — to help justify sending Native Americans to slavery and death — to the early 19th century Americans who staged an overwrought play called “Metamora,” starring Philip as a sort of proto-Revolutionary American.
Interesting stuff. And since I’m finally about to return this book to the Monroe County Library, others can check it out.