'A Great Fire Came to Be Kindled:' Unspinning Mr. Philbrick's Mayflower

49 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2008

Date Written: December 2, 2008


Claims about the economic motivations of population groups in the American past are a staple of contemporary political argument, as polemicists of one side seek to impeach the moral standing of the other side by impeaching the moral standing of the forebears of the people on the other side. Sometimes such polemics are presented to the public in the guise of nonpartisan works of popular history. This paper, applying the training of a litigator in preparing an "opposition" or "reply" brief, examines and exposes the "spin" in the economic history offered by popular author Nathaniel Philbrick in his 207 book Mayflower, in the sections of the book addressing the bloody conflict in New England in 1675-76 known as "King Philip's War." The paper uses the facts Mr. Philbrick himself reports in his book to refute his conclusions, showing that the English colonists fought in legitimate self-defense and not out of greed or racism, against certain (not all) Indian tribes whose warriors, in the words of one of their own chiefs, were like "sticks laid on a heap, till by the multitude of them a great fire came to be kindled."

Keywords: Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower, King Philip's War, Colonialism, 1675, Colonial America, economic history, puritanism, litigation techniques, opposition brief, reply brief

JEL Classification: K41, N41, O13, Q15

Suggested Citation

Sisson, Edward H., 'A Great Fire Came to Be Kindled:' Unspinning Mr. Philbrick's Mayflower (December 2, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1310348 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1310348

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