Colonial Warfare in North America in the Seventeenth Century

Authored by: Kyle F. Zelner

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533805
eBook ISBN: 9781315817347
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813354


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In the past, the colonial period of American History—especially the seventeenth century—often received scant attention in American military historiography. Standard studies frequently offered only a miniscule introductory chapter on the colonial period, while other studies, such as Russell Weigley’s influential The American Way of War, omitted the period altogether. 1 That changed in the late 1960s with the birth of social history and the attendant refocusing of the historical lens on the colonial period. The rise of ethnohistory at the same time offered historians new ways to study and understand Native American history on its own accord, not just from a skewed European perspective. As American Indians were central participants in every colonial war, this was another crucial step in the development of the field. The rise of social and cultural history, along with ethnohistory, gave birth to new ways of looking at colonial warfare. As practitioners of the study of war and society, along with traditional military historians, focused on the period, other historians came to understand that the study of warfare was not just a marginal, technical field, but the examination of a crucial aspect of life in colonial North America. That new understanding has fueled, since the 1980s, a deluge of scholarly works on conflict in seventeenth-century America.

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