Abraham in Arms
War and Gender in Colonial New England
Ann M. Little
272 pages | 6 x 9 | 17 illus.
Paper 2007 | ISBN 978-0-8122-1961-6 | $24.95s | £16.50 | Add to cart
Ebook 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0264-9 | $24.95s | £16.50 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Early American Studies series
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"This innovative and thought-provoking analysis of why New Englanders and Indians went to war, and how they interpreted their experiences in war, effectively reshapes our perspectives of culture and society on the early New England frontier."—Journal of American History
"A clearly written, cogently argued book on early American cultural encounters. Highly recommended."—Choice
"A creative and fascinating tour-de-force. Sweeping across two centuries of conflict in the colonial Northeast, from the Pequot War of 1636-37 to the Seven Years' War of the mid-eighteenth century, Little shows how northeastern Native peoples, English colonists, and French settlers interpreted each other's actions through the lens of their own gendered sense of proper social order. The book makes a very persuasive case for gender being central to any study of war that historians might undertake, and the writing flows elegantly from insight to insight."—Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut
In 1678, the Puritan minister Samuel Nowell preached a sermon he called "Abraham in Arms," in which he urged his listeners to remember that "Hence it is no wayes unbecoming a Christian to learn to be a Souldier." The title of Nowell's sermon was well chosen. Abraham of the Old Testament resonated deeply with New England men, as he embodied the ideal of the householder-patriarch, at once obedient to God and the unquestioned leader of his family and his people in war and peace. Yet enemies challenged Abraham's authority in New England: Indians threatened the safety of his household, subordinates in his own family threatened his status, and wives and daughters taken into captivity became baptized Catholics, married French or Indian men, and refused to return to New England.
In a bold reinterpretation of the years between 1620 and 1763, Ann M. Little reveals how ideas about gender and family life were central to the ways people in colonial New England, and their neighbors in New France and Indian Country, described their experiences in cross-cultural warfare. Little argues that English, French, and Indian people had broadly similar ideas about gender and authority. Because they understood both warfare and political power to be intertwined expressions of manhood, colonial warfare may be understood as a contest of different styles of masculinity. For New England men, what had once been a masculinity based on household headship, Christian piety, and the duty to protect family and faith became one built around the more abstract notions of British nationalism, anti-Catholicism, and soldiering for the Empire.
Based on archival research in both French and English sources, court records, captivity narratives, and the private correspondence of ministers and war officials, Abraham in Arms reconstructs colonial New England as a frontier borderland in which religious, cultural, linguistic, and geographic boundaries were permeable, fragile, and contested by Europeans and Indians alike.
Ann M. Little is Associate Professor of History at Colorado State University.