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Making War and Minting Christians

Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England

R. Todd Romero

Publication Year: 2011

In this book, R. Todd Romero traces the interaction of notions of gender, the practice of religion, and the conduct of warfare in colonial America. He shows how Native and Anglo-American ideas of manhood developed in counterpoint, in the context of Christian evangelization, colonial expansion, and recurrent armed conflict. For the English, the cultivation of manliness became an important aspect of missionary efforts. Conversion demanded that the English “make men” of the Indians before they could “make them Christians,” a process that involved reshaping Native masculinity according to English patriarchal ideals that the colonists themselves rarely matched. For their part, Native Americans held on to older ways of understanding the divine and defining gender even as they entered English “praying towns” and negotiated the steep demands of the missionaries. Evolving ideas of masculinity resonated with religious significance and shaped the meaning of warfare for Natives and colonists alike. Just as the English believed that their territorial expansion was divinely sanctioned, Indians attributed a string of victories in King Philip’s War to “the Great God” and the perception that their enemies “were like women.” Trusting that war and manliness were necessarily linked, both groups engaged in ritual preparations for battle, believed deeply in the efficacy of the supernatural to affect the outcome of combat, and comprehended the meaning of war in distinctly religious ways.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

I have benefited from the generosity of numerous institutions. Boston College supported my research through several years of fellowships My research and writing was also supported by a Short-Term Residential Fellowship from the Newberry Library; a Research Fellowship from The...

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pp. 1-14

On a March 1524 day, a party of Carolina Indians curiously watch as a “young sailor” who stands in the surf tries to interest them in some “bells, mirrors, and other trifles.” In the distance lies a French ship, La Dauphine, while closer to the action is a small boat that has brought the...

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Part I: Gender Counterpoint

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pp. 15-20

As summer turned to fall in 1622, the Plymouth colonists, who had arrived aboard the Mayflower two years earlier, once again began worrying about the coming winter. Although they were rarely on friendly terms with the unruly settlers at Wessagussett, necessity forced the Plymouth colonists to join with their troublesome English neighbors to trade for corn...

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Chapter 1. “In the Shape of a Man, a Deare, a Fawne and Eagle”

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pp. 21-30

Status and spiritual power played an important role in defining Indian manhood and womanhood. Edward Winslow, for example, commented that “the younger fore reverence for the elder . . . do all meane offices whilst they are together, although they bee strangers,” and noted that Indian...

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Chapter 2. “Manly Christianity”

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pp. 31-45

Manliness was at once essential to Christian living in colonial New England and a frequent source of anxiety. Colonists did not create new gender identities or a new gender system when they moved to the region. Rather, they adapted English patterns to new social and demographic...

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Chapter 3. “A man is not Accounted a Man Till he doe Some Notable Act”

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pp. 46-56

Native s and Anglo-Americans shared the view that manhood needed to be accomplished. They often came to different conclusions, however, about which activities were worthy or important. An examination of masculine accomplishment in four arenas — physical prowess, gaming, hunting...

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Chapter 4. “If he is Fat and Sleek, a Wife is Given to Him”

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pp. 57-76

Colonial marriage practices suggest some of the ways in which manhood was juxtaposed with womanhood. Marriage served — along with its other emotional, familial, economic, diplomatic, and religious dimensions — as an arena for masculine accomplishment. Instead of a...

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Part II: Minting Christians

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pp. 71-76

Reports that Montowompate’s older brother, Wonohaquaham (also known as Sagamore John), considered converting to Christianity caused a flurry of commentary, revealing many of this section’s concerns. Friendly with colonists, Wonohaquaham’s people lived in the area that...

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Chapter 5. “Man-Like Civilitie”

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pp. 77-89

Manhood and colonization were intertwined for the early modern English settlers. Both colonial promotional literature and missionary writings reflect a belief in the transformative power of English masculinity and Protestantism to remake the New World in ways that Catholic Portuguese...

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Chapter 6. “Formerly . . . a Harmlesse Man”

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pp. 90-106

As they coped with the destructiveness of colonialism, Native men and women found much in Christianity that proved appealing or at least amenable to long-standing ways of defining gender and religion. Although their persistence and adaptation are testament to their resourcefulness, it...

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Chapter 7. “Endeavour . . . to Follow the English Mode”

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pp. 107-120

The counter point between missionary ideals and praying-Indian realities is especially revealing in two highly symbolic areas: adornment and the built environment. Symbols mattered in colonial New England. Missionaries saw the adoption of English clothing and hairstyles by potential Indian...

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Chapter 8. Deficient Fathers and “Saucy” Children

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pp. 121-136

Missionaries held strong fathers as key to reordering Native American families and instilling Christian sexual mores. Their view was part of a broader Anglo-American belief that orderly monogamous marriages served as the bedrock on which a productive, Christian, and civilized...

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Part III: Making War

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pp. 137-140

Amid the still unburied dead and smoldering houses left from a successful attack on Providence in March 1676, an elderly Roger Williams and the young translator Valentine Whitman agreed to parley with the Narragansett sachem Wesauamog, his compatriot Pawatuk, and an unnamed warrior from the mixed group of Indians who had recently...

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Chapter 9. Manitou and Militia Days

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pp. 141-155

Warfare was a deeply religious occasion for both Indians and colonists. Cross-cultural exchange as well as ritualized occasions like training days well illustrate this dynamic and offer an excellent way to begin exploring the connections between manliness, religion, and warfare. Take, for example, a striking series of exchanges between the Narragansetts and the...

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Chapter 10. “Best to deal with Indians in their Own Way”

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pp. 156-176

Beyond the origins and stakes of a given conflict, warfare was regarded as intrinsically religious and served as an arena for the performance of manhood, where dominance was viewed as manly, and defeat was implicitly tied to effeminacy, weakness, and failure. What defined a manly and honorable mode of warfare, however, remained contested. Natives and...

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Chapter 11. “The God of Armies”

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pp. 177-191

For Anglo Americans , war was imbued with religious and gendered significance: God’s hand shaped events big and small in ways, Puritans assumed, that sinful, imperfect humans could not fully discern, however mightily they tried. Writing in the 1650s, for example, Edward Johnson reported that New England military preparedness was part of a larger...

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pp. 193-197

Even as disaster turned to victory at the end of King Philip’s War, colonial officials worried that many English observers, especially at Whitehall, the seat of government in London, were blaming the conflict on local mismanagement of Indian affairs and colonial defense. Responding to...


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pp. 199-247


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pp. 249-255

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761717
E-ISBN-10: 1613761716
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558498877
Print-ISBN-10: 1558498877

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 5 color photos, 3 color illus., 3 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Missionaries -- New England -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Missions -- New England.
  • Indians of North America -- New England -- Religion.
  • Masculinity -- New England -- History.
  • Masculinity -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Sex role -- New England -- History.
  • New England -- History, Military.
  • New England -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • Indians of North America -- New England -- Wars.
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