Smithsonian Magazine: The Shocking Savagery of America’s Early History

Documenting every fearful sermon
History • Views: 46,061
The ”peaceful” Pilgrims massacred the Pequots and destroyed their fort near Stonington, Connecticut, in 1637. A 19th-century wood engraving (above) depicts the slaughter. (The Granger Collection, NYC)

It’s all a bit of a blur, isn’t it? That little-remembered century—1600 to 1700—that began with the founding (and foundering) of the first permanent English settlement in America, the one called Jamestown, whose endemic perils portended failure for the dream of a New World. The century that saw all the disease-ridden, barely civilized successors to Jamestown slaughtering and getting slaughtered by the Original Inhabitants, hanging on by their fingernails to some fetid coastal swampland until Pocahontas saved Thanksgiving. No, that’s not right, is it? I said it was a blur.

Enter Bernard Bailyn, the greatest historian of early America alive today. Now over 90 and ensconced at Harvard for more than six decades, Bailyn has recently published another one of his epoch-making grand narrative syntheses, The Barbarous Years, casting a light on the darkness, filling in the blank canvas with what he’s gleaned from what seems like every last scrap of crumbling diary page, every surviving chattel slave receipt and ship’s passenger manifest of the living and dead, every fearful sermon about the Antichrist that survived in the blackened embers of the burned-out churches.

Bailyn has not painted a pretty picture. Little wonder he calls it The Barbarous Years and spares us no details of the terror, desperation, degradation and widespread torture—do you really know what being “flayed alive” means? (The skin is torn from the face and head and the prisoner is disemboweled while still alive.) And yet somehow amid the merciless massacres were elements that gave birth to the rudiments of civilization—or in Bailyn’s evocative phrase, the fragile “integument of civility”—that would evolve 100 years later into a virtual Renaissance culture, a bustling string of self-governing, self-sufficient, defiantly expansionist colonies alive with an increasingly sophisticated and literate political and intellectual culture that would coalesce into the rationale for the birth of American independence. All the while shaping, and sometimes misshaping, the American character. It’s a grand drama in which the glimmers of enlightenment barely survive the savagery, what Yeats called “the blood-dimmed tide,” the brutal establishment of slavery, the race wars with the original inhabitants that Bailyn is not afraid to call “genocidal,” the full, horrifying details of which have virtually been erased.

More: The Shocking Savagery of America’s Early History

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Donate with
PayPal
Square Cash Shop at amazon
as an LGF Associate!
Recent PagesClick to refresh
Microsoft Uncovers More Russian Attacks Ahead of Midterms More Russian attacks on America. Microsoft said Tuesday it has uncovered new Russian hacking attempts targeting U.S. political groups ahead of the midterm elections. The company said that a hacking group tied to the Russian government created fake internet ...
Thanos
2 hours, 52 minutes ago
Views: 54 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
US Sen. Sherrod Brown Introduces Bill Giving $3,500 Discounts on American-Made Car Purchases$3,500? Will that offset in increased costs due to the trade war? I like the idea but why oh why did we have to get here to begin with? Not every vehicle would qualify for the discount. The bill requires ...
Unshaken Defiance
14 hours, 46 minutes ago
Views: 121 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Trump’s Nixon-Style Enemies List So many Parallels - how much longer will the public put up with this? Reacting to The New York Times’ story that White House Counsel Don McGahn has been speaking with Robert Mueller’s team, President Donald Trump tweeted out ...
Thanos
1 day, 17 hours ago
Views: 109 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Calexico - End of the World With You (Live on KEXP) kexp.org presents Calexico performing "End Of The World With You" live in the KEXP studio. Recorded June 19, 2018. Host: MorganAudio Engineers: Martin H. Gonzalez & Julian MartlewCameras: Jim Beckmann, Alaia D'Alessandro, Scott Holpainen & Justin WilmoreEditor: Jim Beckmann ...
Thanos
1 week ago
Views: 185 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
LSD - Thunderclouds (Official Audio) Ft. Sia, Diplo, Labrinth Labrinth, Sia & Diplo present LSD - Thunderclouds (Official Audio) Stream "Thunderclouds" now: smarturl.itSpotify: smarturl.itiTunes: smarturl.itApple Music: smarturl.itAmazon Music: smarturl.it Learn more about LSD and sign up for the official mailing list: droppinglsd.com Lyrics: All I need is oneOne ...
Thanos
1 week ago
Views: 246 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Half•alive - Still Feel. [Music VIDEO] half•alive’s music video for ‘still feel.’ Save on Spotify : spoti.fi Apple Music : apple.coSoundcloud : SoundCloud find half•alive on… Instagram: instagr.amTwitter: @halfalivecoSpotify: spoti.fiSoundcloud: SoundCloudSite: halfalive.co Directed / Edited / Colored by : Josh TaylorDirector of Photography : Ryan ...
Thanos
1 week ago
Views: 283 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Bands and Artists I LoveSuperorganism. Your text to link...
The Artist Formerly Known as Irenicum
1 week, 2 days ago
Views: 224 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Dave Grohl - Play (Official Video) PLAY more at play.roswellfilms.com Pre-order limited edition vinyl bundles and stream the song: smarturl.it “PLAY” by Dave Grohl celebrates the rewards and challenges of dedicating one’s life to playing and mastering a musical instrument. Part one opens with narrated ...
Thanos
1 week, 3 days ago
Views: 224 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
The Seshen - Distant Heart (Live on KEXP) kexp.org presents The Seshen performing "Distant Heart" live at The Little London Plane during Upstream Music Fest. Recorded June 1, 2018. Host: Kevin ColeAudio Engineer: Kevin SuggsCameras: Jim Beckmann, Alaia D'Alessandro & Justin WilmoreDirector: Scott HolpainenEditor: Alaia D'Alessandro kexp.orgtheseshen.comupstreammusicfest.com ...
Thanos
2 weeks, 1 day ago
Views: 1,100 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Retrograde PresidentProfit at any cost. American dream. President Trump. Blind destruction. BBC News: The Trump administration has overturned bans on the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations and the cultivation of genetically modified crops in US national wildlife refuges. ...
Dom
2 weeks, 3 days ago
Views: 817 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0