Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New England Frontier by Alden T. Vaughan

This book is by no means new (the latest edition was revised in 1995), but it is still readily available, and for good reason.  The focus of Vaughan's work is Puritan/Native American relations between the landing of the Mayflower and the start of King Philip's War, and covers topics such as Puritan laws, trade between Puritans and Native Americans, and Puritan efforts to convert Native Americans to Christianity.  Vaughan takes a fairly objective stance on these topics, showing how both parties managed to remain quite amicable for a good while, and blaming each party for things going sour only when blame is warranted.

I am by no means a historian, but I found this book to be quite readable and easily understandable.  Vaughan lays down the basics of New England's Native American tribes up to the point of the Mayflower landing, and he gives some background on earlier European exploration of America.  Chapters are, on the whole, arranged thematically rather than chronologically (though the information within each chapter is chronological).  For this reason, I found this book much more effective than, say, Nathanial Filbrick's more recent work, Mayflower, which is organized through a straight chronology of the same time period.  Vaughan's thematic approach makes the topic much more coherent, and he doesn't focus on so many minute details that Filbrick does, which also makes it more cohesive.  For readers looking for a broad overview of early Puritan/Native American relations, Vaughan's book is definitely a good place to start.

Rating: 4/5
Buy here.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Lindsay,
    In the course of researching a book I'm writing about my family's history, I became very interested in the New England Indians of the time. I found "New England Frontier" and have just started reading it. I'm still in the introduction (Norton, 1979 edition), but I'm very impressed by his fair treatment of both sides and his ability and willingness to re-examine his own previously held views.