Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery (Hardback)
  • Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery (Hardback)

Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery (Hardback)

Hardback 328 Pages / Published: 21/05/2015
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In Brethren by Nature, Margaret Ellen Newell reveals a little-known aspect of American history: English colonists in New England enslaved thousands of Indians. Massachusetts became the first English colony to legalize slavery in 1641, and the colonists' desire for slaves shaped the major New England Indian wars, including the Pequot War of 1637, King Philip's War of 1675-76, and the northeastern Wabanaki conflicts of 1676-1749. When the wartime conquest of Indians ceased, New Englanders turned to the courts to get control of their labor, or imported Indians from Florida and the Carolinas, or simply claimed free Indians as slaves.Drawing on letters, diaries, newspapers, and court records, Newell recovers the slaves' own stories and shows how they influenced New England society in crucial ways. Indians lived in English homes, raised English children, and manned colonial armies, farms, and fleets, exposing their captors to Native religion, foods, and technology. Some achieved freedom and power in this new colonial culture, but others experienced violence, surveillance, and family separations. Newell also explains how slavery linked the fate of Africans and Indians. The trade in Indian captives connected New England to Caribbean and Atlantic slave economies. Indians labored on sugar plantations in Jamaica, tended fields in the Azores, and rowed English naval galleys in Tangier. Indian slaves outnumbered Africans within New England before 1700, but the balance soon shifted. Fearful of the growing African population, local governments stripped Indian and African servants and slaves of legal rights and personal freedoms. Nevertheless, because Indians remained a significant part of the slave population, the New England colonies did not adopt all of the rigid racial laws typical of slave societies in Virginia and Barbados. Newell finds that second- and third-generation Indian slaves fought their enslavement and claimed citizenship in cases that had implications for all enslaved peoples in eighteenth-century America.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801434150
Number of pages: 328
Weight: 595 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 25 mm


"Last fall, National Geographic and PBS touted their respective TV series about the first Thanksgiving as new and historically accurate interpretations of the European colonization of New England. But neither 'Saints and Strangers' nor 'American Experience: The Pilgrims' dared to go where Margaret Ellen Newell has gone in her most recent book, Brethren by Nature, a meticulously researched account of American Indian slavery during the Colonial period in New England."

-- Tanya H. Lee * Indian Country Today Media Network *

"Newell has done an excellent job of combing through court recordscorrespondenceand other materials to reconstruct details large and small and to uncover the stories of enslaved people and their enslavers... [A] testament to her careful scholarship and indeed a central part of the story of Indian slavery in New England."

-- Daniel K. Richter * New England Quarterly *

"Newell recovers the stories of individual Indian people caught up in a system of unfree labor that contributed to New England's prosperity, linked the region to slave economies in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and played an important role in the racialization of society. Brethren by Nature is an important book about Indians in New England; it is also an important book about New England."

-- Colin G. Calloway * Media Reviews *

"Newell's achievement represents some of the best new research within the historiographies of Native America, slavery, and colonial New England. Never losing sight of the enslaved themselves, Brethren by Nature places the travails of indigenous nations and individuals at the heart of colonial slavery. With this outstanding work, Newell shakes the 'city on the hill' to its very core."

-- Max Flomen * American Indian Culture and Research Journal *

"Brethren by Nature offers a well-researched and beautifully written examination of the evolution of Indian slavery in New England from its inception to its decline by 1800, its effects on English and indigenous societies, and its key role in the larger Atlantic world of commerce and labor exchange. This book makes an important contribution to scholarship on colonial, early national, Native American, and Atlantic World history as well as to studies of race and slavery."

-- Joanne Pope Melish, University of Kentucky, author of Disowning Slavery

"In Brethren by Nature, Margaret Ellen Newell aims to put Indian slavery into the forefront of the economic and legal history of colonial New England and show how it was an important aspect of the larger development of slavery in the western Atlantic world. Newell clearly and even brilliantly succeeds in that goal."

-- Daniel Mandell, Truman State University, author of King Philip's War; Behind the Frontier; and Tribe, Race, History

"Margaret Ellen Newell's vibrant Brethren by Nature recovers an almost lost history of slavery and servitude in colonial New England. Through poignant stories and insights gleaned from legal records she proves that unfree labor was ubiquitous in early America."

-- Peter Mancal, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, University of Southern California, author of Deadly Medicine: Indians and Alcohol in Early America

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