The Role Which Religion Played during the King Philip’s War

Tom Hu


King Philip’s war (1675-1676) was arguably one of the most brutal and bloody conflicts in the Atlantic world. As a war fought among the English colonial forces and the Natives, King Philip’s war was an important turning point, as it secured the colony’s position over the Natives. Most of the Indian resistance were killed or enslaved during the war. The rest of the Indian population after the war experienced an extreme demographic decline through frequent dislocation and death (Note 1). However, the war ended with the death of Metacom, the sachem of the Wampanoag tribe. The war was victorious for the English, as it undermined Native military strength and political sovereignty and reduced future resistance to expansion, giving the English control over some of the colonies and Native reservations (Note 2).

Many historians narrate the war by focusing on the causes and effects of this brutal conflict. However, this paper looks at the different roles that religion played in the war, considering the motives and effects of the evangelization, and the effects of the war on Christian Indians. This paper also examines how the Puritan evangelists and religion contributed and perpetuated the war through using evangelization to create cultural divisions within the tribal communities and creating strong racial distinctions among the English colonists and the Indians. Throughout the war, religion perpetuated and prolonged the war by creating religious and cultural divisions among the tribes; by giving strong justification for anti-Indian bias; and by giving both sides confidence that they had God’s blessing.

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