TwitterFacebook

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

Documenting every fearful sermon
History • Views: 33,335
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

^ back to top ^

TwitterFacebook

Turn off all ads for a full year by subscribing!
For about 33 cents a day (per month) or 22 cents a day (per year), our subscription option turns off all advertisements at LGF!
Read more...

► LGF Headlines

  • Loading...

► Tweeted Articles

  • Loading...

► Tweeted Pages

  • Loading...

► Top 10 Comments

  • Loading...

► Bottom Comments

  • Loading...

► Recent Comments

  • Loading...

► Tools/Info

► Tag Cloud

► Contact

You must have Javascript enabled to use the contact form.
Your email:

Subject:

Message:


Messages may be published unless you request otherwise.
Tech Note:
Using the Contact Form
LGF Pages

This button leads to the main index of LGF Pages, our user-submitted articles. You can post your own LGF Pages simply by registering a free account with us.

Create a Page

This 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: 2014-03-07 2:19 pm PST

LGF User's Guide
Recent Pages
Skip Intro
Congressman Vows to Investigate Google Searches of ‘America’ Movie
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a frequent foe of Google, is demanding to know why the giant Internet company was fumbling the search results for DineshD'Souza's movie America for nearly three weeks. Shortly after the movie opened wide on July ...

36 minutes ago
Views: 36 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
Randall Gross
Rulings on Health Law Are Far From Last Word
An appellate court ruling issued Tuesday would be very bad news for the Affordable Care Act if it became the law of the land. But it's still a long way from a settled issue, as a second appellate decision, ...

7 hours, 9 minutes ago
Views: 168 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 5 • Rating: 1
FemNaziBitch
Members of Congress Take ‘Minimum Wage Challenge’ to Live Off Reduced Budget for a Week
Since he began his minimum wage challenge on Sunday, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, now president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has had eggs and toast, a bowl of cereal with a peanut butter and jelly ...

9 hours, 40 minutes ago
Views: 136 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 0
Mentis Fugit
Frisson
Over at the quirky Riddled blog, I encountered this music video link. I have the album, but I had last listened long ago, and I had forgotten the lyrics. The lengthy, moody intro slowly drew me back thirty five years, ...

21 hours, 2 minutes ago
Views: 85 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
BadExampleMan
The painful futility of war
This makes me furious. These men pledged their loyalty to their country and their country betrayed them. It treated them as disposable, throwing their lives away in a war that was premised on lies, that was chosen gleefully, and that ...

2 days, 13 hours ago
Views: 265 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 0
MichaelJ
Mick Fanning Wins J-Bay Open 2014
More: MICK FANNING WINS J-BAY OPEN Finals day for the contest was run in perfect Supertubes conditions. Too bad Kelly Slater and Jordy Smith were eliminated in lesser quality surf - it would have been amazing to have both of ...

2 days, 22 hours ago
Views: 207 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
Rightwingconspirator
ISIS Threatens Iraqi Christians in Mosul
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Extremists occupying large swaths of Iraq and Syria have issued a threat to Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul: accept Islam, pay extra taxes to Islamic Sharia courts or face "death by the sword." ...

5 days ago
Views: 623 • Comments: 9
Tweets: 19 • Rating: 3
Thrazidun
Paris: Jews Fight Back Against Islamist Mob - Jewish World - News - Arutz Sheva
More: Paris: Jews Fight Back Against Islamist Mob - Jewish World - News - Arutz Sheva

5 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 693 • Comments: 5
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
GlutenFreeJesus
Gotta love Chicago
Admittedly, I only started following these guys in the past year or two. They have been in the Chicago scene for awhile. And I kick myself after every show for not following them sooner. For any fans of Led Zeppelin, ...

5 days, 7 hours ago
Views: 314 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 2
wheat-dogghazi
Rachel Aviv: A Middle-School Cheating Scandal Raises Questions About No Child Left Behind
Writing for The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv profiles some of the teachers and principals caught up in Atlanta's standardized cheating scandal. Focusing on Parks Middle School, which is located in a "rough" section of the city, her article portrays a ...

5 days, 16 hours ago
Views: 481 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 8 • Rating: 2
 Frank says:

Did anybody dance? -- Said after performing the highly, shall we say, evolved "Black Page #2" on "Zappa In New York". (And as you probably already know, this was the song that alerted FZ to the existance of his stunt guitarist to be,Steve Vai, after recieving a sheet music transcription of the song, made by young master Vai.)