Categorized In

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, rev. ed.

Loewen, James W. | Touchstone, 2007


pp. 74-76, 85

The Pilgrims who landed in New England met with little resistance from the native Indian population because the Indians had been infected with European diseases (usually thought to have been mainly smallpox) first by itinerant British and French fishermen in the decades before 1620 and then by the Pilgrims themselves. Up to 90 % of Indians succumbed. They had no natural resistance. “John Winthop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague ‘miraculous.’” He was amazed that the land had been emptied of Indians by smallpox, attributing this blessing to God, who ‘hath thereby cleared our title to this place.’” Indians had already readied lands for farming. Pilgrims simply took them over—in particular, Plymouth, with its “beautiful cleared fields, planted in corn, and its useful harbor and its ‘brook of fresh water.’ It was a lovely site for a town. Indeed, until the plague it had been a town . . . none other than Squanto’s village of Patuxet.” The epidemics and land grabs used to be entirely omitted in American History textbooks (how could a great nation start in this way?), but are now slowly and mutedly entering their narratives.