Early US Literature

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The Invasion of America and Related Articles


Fischer, Kirsten. “In Retrospect: The Career of Francis Jennings.” Review in American History 30.4 (2002): 517-529. Web 18 Jul. 2013.

Kirsten Fischer writes that Jennings was a “dragon-slayer” and that his bête noires were legends such as myths of righteous European colonists seeking liberty in a land of Indians whom they considered savages and threats to themselves (517). Jennings lambasts Francis Parkman, an eminent nineteenth-century historian for romanticizing the role of colonists and lying about the Indian contributions to the 1758 peace negotiations in Pennsylvania. Fischer writes that Jennings was tirelessly devoted to attacking Parkman and in exposing the European myth of Indian savagery and European civility which he saw as the work of apologist historians who distorted history and perpetuated false information regarding early American history. For Jennings even the conversion of Indians was a pretext to collect money from the English government and use it for other purposes such as for Harvard which produced scholars steeped in traditions that Puritans like John Eliot espoused (519). As the Puritans were the winners, their version of history does not take into account their atrocities and the positive sides of the Indians. Fischer mentions The Invasion of America as a scathing attack on the dichotomy of savagery and civility. Writing after the death of Jennings, Fischer presents an outline of Jennings’ works and commends him as an author who exposed certain myths regarding American history.

Peter d’Errico. “Native Americans in America: A Theoretical and Historical Overview.” Wicazo Sa Review 14.1 Indigenous Resistance and Persistence (1999): 7-28. Web 18 Jul. 2013.

d’Errico’s essay ties well with Jennings argument that America was not a virgin land and that native people have been present in America since the earliest times. What sets them as different from the “minorities” in America is that they exist as self-governing groups rather than as individuals sharing personal and cultural traits—an important factor in understanding overall perspective of the early American history (8). He says that native Americans are not minorities who are seeking a ‘fair share’ in American society but are declaring the existence of a separate domain and their question involves the issue of ‘sovereignty’ (9). Self-government is the primary factor that separates the native Americans for other minority groups but it does not sit well with the multi-cultural society of America. d’Errico discusses the political demands made by the native Americans and the limitations of the American federal system for accommodating those demands but he does not explain well the reasons sovereignty would be useful to native Americans in the current times. The article provides a modern viewpoint to my historical study whereby I can better understand the change in ideology for native American demands over the times but the article does not provide substantial reason for demanding sovereignty for the indigenous peoples.

Roeber, A. G. “Review of The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest by Francis Jennings.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 9.2 (1978): 368-371. Web. 20 Jul. 2013.

According to Roeber, Jennings’ book is a revisionist attack on American Puritanism. He quickly brushes aside the Indian point of view of the European invasion of America, a point Jennings emphasizes upon. Roeber is critical of Jennings corrective views regarding the Indians and the vicissitudes they undergo o account of European colonization because he finds Jennings falling short of providing methodological grounds for his arguments and his inability to provide definitions for certain words such as the confusion regarding the words “myth” and “ideology” and “culture” (368). Roeber debunks Jennings claims that it was the desire for progress that propelled the colonizers for colonization of other lands but Jennings believes it was their belief in millennialism that propelled them to colonize other lands and seek more adventure. Roeber comments that language is important to a historian and anthropologist but Jennings is not careful of this fact. For Roeber, ethnohistorians are not scientific or objective than their confreres in any area of humanities.

Simmons, William S. “Cultural Bias in the New England Puritan’s Perception of Indians.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series 38. 1 (1981): 56-72. Web 18 Jul. 2013.

In this article, the author argues that English Puritan voyagers to New England during the seventeenth century considered Indians in terms of mythical model that originated in Christian past and became more emphasized through the teachings of John Calvin. For them, the world was divided into the forces of light and darkness and this perception informed their wold view. This belief led them to see Indians as worshipers of devils who practiced witchcraft. The author tries to provide evidences from the Puritan sources that made the devil and witchcraft interpretations of Indian culture self-evident to the Puritans. For his source, Simmons draws upon the writing of seventeenth and eighteenth century English observers who lived in England and personally knew Indians. Puritans authors chronicled the beliefs and practices of the Indians as they saw them and they paid attention to those aspects of Indian culture which corresponded with their ideas of Satan and witchcraft. The Puritans employed a structural model based on the opposition between the forces of light and darkness which they saw as God and devil. The  model became an ideological tool in displacing the native inhabitants.Though Simmons observations are largely documented and plausible, his thesis is too general. He develops his article on obvious facts—facts that have been already commented upon previously and copiously.

Thomas, G. E. “Puritans, Indians, and the Concept of Race.” The New England Quarterly 48.1 (1975): 3-27. Web 18 Jul. 2013.

Though almost four decades old, this essay provides an important background to the perception of relations between Indians and Europeans. Thomas begins his essay by stating that historical interpretations of the relationship (four decades back) were based on the view that the colonizers were remarkably humane, considerate and just in their dealings with the natives (3). According to this view the Indians did not get destroyed by the colonists but by their inability to cope up with new challenges and diseases. Thomas sees this view as orthodox and biased against the Indians. One reason for this bias is the dependence on the writing of the seventeenth-century writers on the nature and value of Indian society (4). Similarly the Puritans stated that the main reason of their coming to New England was to proselytize the Indians but Thomas says they started on the mission of converting the Indians after a decade of their arrival; and while they promised freedom of faith to everyone, they forbade Indians the practice of their own religion or the use of their medicine man on threat of fine (5). Thomas’ essay is a useful corollary to Jennings argument which I am studying as my primary source.


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