History Faculty Publications
Review: 'Gods of War, Gods of Peace: How the Meeting of Native and Colonial Religions Shaped Early America'
In this ambitious and interesting book, Russell Bourne, former editor at American Heritage and author of The Red King’s Rebellion: Racial Politics in New England, argues that “the cultural contact between Anglo-Americans and Native Americans ... becomes most understandable when seen as an intrinsically religious encounter” (p. 3) that had “immense consequences for [both] cultures” (p. xii). Bourne covers the two centuries from the 1630s through the 1830s, shedding light on familiar and less familiar religious figures such as Handsome Lake, Hobomock, John Eliot, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Kirkland, and Shikellamy.
Bourne’s sympathies are clearly with moments and places, including the Nanticoke Reformer’s Juniata Junction and David Brainerd’s Crossweeksung, where Indians and Europeans joined to create “equitable biracial communities” (p. 224). Most of the time, however, the “gods of war” overwhelmed the “gods of peace.”
Bourne is quite persuasive in describing 17th-century conflicts such as the Pequot War and King Philip’s War as religious wars. More provocatively, he argues that the American Revolution, in which George Washington’s “largest assault ... [was] against the corn-rich, spirited, unreconcilable Iroquois,” was in many ways a conflict of “Indian nationalism and American evangelical imperialism” (276-77).
Copyright © 2003 by the Ohio Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Kent State University Press
Trollinger, William Vance, "Review: 'Gods of War, Gods of Peace: How the Meeting of Native and Colonial Religions Shaped Early America'" (2003). History Faculty Publications. 36.
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