Power, Political Economy, and War on the Anglo-Indian Frontier, 1636-1727
Miller, Craig A.
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This thesis explores the relationship between armed conflict and the environment during the first century of English settlement in New England. I argue that war for Indians and English settlers in the long 17th century served divergent purposes because their structures and mechanisms of power rested on fundamentally different attitudes toward the environment. I explore these relationships in four wars: the Pequot War, King Philip's War and the lesser known Greylock's War and Dummer's War. Colonists' sedentary economies, predicated on agriculture and animal domestication, allowed for rapid population expansion. Rapid population growth created intense competition for land between settlers and native people and among settlers as well. Indians' seasonal rounds utilized large tracts of land at different times during the year and this seasonal use complicated European settlers' desire for land. As their populations grew colonists began to view Indian economies, and Indians, as backward and consciously devised ways to marginalize their economic activities. On three occasions in the first 100 years of English settlement, these differences led to devastating wars. Political economy affected not only the motivations for war, but the tactics and strategies of the combatants as well. Settlers farmed and raised livestock and they rarely ventured into the woods to hunt. Colonists' military training was haphazard and suited to open field battles. Their drilling did not prepare them to launch successful offensive wars against Indian villages or track Indians through the forest. When colonists did locate Indian villages, they almost always resorted to extirpative tactics, burning entire towns and stores of food. Native economies relied in part on hunting. The skill sets developed by hunting such as stalking, living off the forest for extended periods of time and marksmanship were useful in forest warfare. Indians often exploited this advantage by attacking colonial towns in small war parties and retreating before colonists could defend their property or discern the route of escape. Colonists, recognizing their own lack of appropriate skills, often paid non-combatant Indians to scout and track enemy war parties. Colonial victories against Indians in New England hinged less on settlers' military abilities than on population expansion and resource management; colonists' economic choices and political centralization played a determinative role in the dispossession of native people.