The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity

Jill Lepore, Professor of Early American History at Harvard University, draws on scholarship from her book, The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, to trace how the meanings attached to this brutally destructive war have changed as the attitudes about historical actors and the political pressures on those actors have changed. Lepore examines early colonial accounts that depict King Philip’s men as savages and interpret the war as a punishment from God, discusses how the narrative of the war was retold a century later to rouse anti-British sentiment during the Revolution, and finally describes how the story of King Phillip was transformed yet again in the early nineteenth century to portray him as a proud ancestor and American patriot. Through these examples, Lepore argues that "wars are just as much a contest for meaning as they are for territory, and wars are indeed just as much a contest for memory as they are for political allegiances."