Arts & Entertainment

Review: 'New England Bound' recounts slavery of Indian people

A depiction of the 1637 massacre of the Pequot people in Connecticut. Following the massacre, some survivors were taken into slavery in New England. Image from Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America, a new book by professor Wendy Warren, takes a look at the Indian and African slave trade in New England. Christopher L. Brown offers a review for The New York Times:
Here is a picture of Puritan New England far different from the “city upon a hill” that John Winthrop hoped he and the other first settlers would leave for posterity. It opens with the kidnapping of a Patuxet Indian. It closes with one of the wealthiest men in Massachusetts justifying the enslavement and sale of Africans. In between, Wendy Warren, an assistant professor of history at Prince­ton, scatters massacres, a rape, beheadings, brandings, whippings and numerous instances of forced exile. The behavior of New England settlers differed less from that of their contemporaries who established plantation colonies in the Chesapeake and the Caribbean than might be assumed.

Warren’s theme in “New England Bound” — the place of slavery in the making of colonial New England — echoes preoccupations of the moment in the writing of American history, as the pervasive influence of slavery on the nation, its institutions and its cultures attains wider recognition. In time, perhaps, this perspective will no longer surprise, and even now, few familiar with colonial American history will be astonished by Warren’s account. She builds on and generously acknowledges more than two generations of research into the social history of New England and the economic history of the Atlantic world. But not only has she mastered that scholarship, she has also brought it together in an original way, and deepened the story with fresh research.

The economic ties between early New England and the Caribbean deserve to be better known. Prominent merchant families like the Winthrops and the Hutchinsons made their fortunes by linking New England farmers and fishermen to West Indian markets, by sending food to the sugar colonies, where, in the 17th century, the real wealth lay. Enslaved Africans came to New England through these same merchant networks, as one of several imports from the English Caribbean. These forced migrants never became more than 10 percent of the population. Still, many New England households soon kept a captive African or two.

Get the Story:
Review: In America’s Long History of Slavery, New England Shares the Guilt (The New York Times 7/3)

An Opinion:
Robert G. Parkinson: Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? (The New York Times 7/4)

Related Stories:
Slate: Historians put a number on Indian people sold into slavery (01/18)
New York City approves marker where Indian slaves were sold (04/16)