Friends and Enemies in Penn's Woods

Indians, Colonists, and the Racial Construction of Pennsylvania

Edited by William A. Pencak, Daniel K. Richter

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 June 2004

Length of book:

336 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271023854

Two powerfully contradictory images dominate historical memory when we think of Native Americans and colonists in early Pennsylvania. To one side is William Penn’s legendary treaty with the Lenape at Shackamaxon in 1682, enshrined in Edward Hicks’s allegories of the “Peaceable Kingdom.” To the other is the Paxton Boys’ cold-blooded slaughter of twenty Conestoga men, women, and children in 1763. How relations between Pennsylvanians and their Native neighbors deteriorated, in only 80 years, from the idealism of Shackamaxon to the bloodthirstiness of Conestoga is the central theme of Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods.

William Pencak and Daniel Richter have assembled some of the most talented young historians working in the field today. Their approaches and subject matter vary greatly, but all concentrate less on the mundane details of how Euro- and Indian Pennsylvanians negotiated and fought than on how people constructed and reconstructed their cultures in dialogue with others. Taken together, the essays trace the collapse of whatever potential may have existed for a Pennsylvania shared by Indians and Europeans. What remained was a racialized definition that left no room for Native people, except in reassuring memories of the justice of the Founder.

Pennsylvania came to be a landscape utterly dominated by Euro-Americans, who managed to turn the region’s history not only into a story solely about themselves but a morality tale about their best (William Penn) and worst (Paxton Boys) sides. The construction of Pennsylvania on Native ground was also the construction of a racial order for the new nation. Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods will find a broad audience among scholars of early American history, Native American history, and race relations.

Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods is a well-conceived series of essays that together treat the themes of coexistence and racial conflict. And they do so with great sensitivity to change. The essays reveal, in vivid detail, ordinary as well as great individuals grappling with these great problems. But, perhaps because they are written by both some of the most established scholars in the field and new, rising talent, the essays are not in complete harmony with one another, they do not tell a single, seamless story. Instead, this is a book in which many sparks fly.”

—Gregory E. Dowd, University of Michigan