Silver, Peter (Peter Rhoads Silver)

views updated

Silver, Peter (Peter Rhoads Silver)


Born in New Haven, CT. Education: Attended Harvard University; Yale University, Ph.D., 2001.


Office—History Department, 129 Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1017. E-mail—[email protected].


Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, assistant professor of history.


John Addison Porter Prize; Richard Allen Lester University Preceptorship, Princeton University; Bancroft Prize, and Mark Lynton History Prize, both 2008, both for Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America.


Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.


Princeton University history professor Peter Silver is the author of the Bancroft Prizewinning study Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America. The book, according to Silver's faculty profile for the Princeton University History Department Web site, "examines the impact of Indian wars on the deeply divided European societies of the middle Atlantic region, before and during the American Revolution." Silver argues that the French and Indian War, 1754-1763, transformed the political and social nature of Britain's middle provinces, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and particularly Pennsylvania. Although British North America had been torn by Indian wars for decades—since at least the 1690s—the conflict had largely been concentrated on the areas of the continent where British, French, and Spanish interests collided: along New England's border with French Canada, the South's border with Spanish Florida and, to an extent, French Louisiana. The middle colonies had been largely passed over in these colonial wars. Pennsylvania in particular was a virtual haven of peace, in large part because of the insistence of its Quaker founder and proprietors, William Penn and his family, on the importance of treating Native Americans fairly. As population pressures, driven by increased immigration from a diversity of backgrounds, pushed colonial borders westward at the expense of Native Americans, however, conflicts between Native American tribes and European settlers intensified. In 1754, the tensions broke out into full-scale warfare.

Ironically, Silver argues, the violence between Native Americans and settlers had the effect of helping unite the ethnically diverse European population of the middle colonies. In addition to the descendents of the sixteenth-century English settlers, these colonies included citizens of French, German, Swedish, and Scots-Irish ancestry. They also incorporated a variety of religious traditions, including Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism, in addition to the large Quaker population of Pennsylvania. By labeling Native Americans as a collective enemy and dramatizing the violence that occurred at the colonial frontier, patriots during the French and Indian War were able to create a sense of community among these various ethnic and religious traditions. "This anti-Indian campaign—rhetorical and martial—drew the Europeans together, diminishing prejudice among them even as it hardened after the wars into a recognizable racism toward the tribes," stated a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The effort, reported Library Journal reviewer John Burch, ultimately led to the "emergence of a white nationalism built on the common experience of a perceived victimization by Indians." "This is a well-written, provocative, and rather disturbing work that is likely to generate controversy," declared Jay Freeman in a review for Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that Our Savage Neighbors will alter how "scholars think about whiteness and will reshape our understanding of how 13 distinct colonies were knit together into one nation."



Booklist, October 15, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, p. 24.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Our Savage Neighbors.

Library Journal, September 1, 2007, John Burch, review of Our Savage Neighbors, p. 151.

Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2007, review of Our Savage Neighbors, p. 177.


Columbia University, Library News Web site, (July 24, 2008), "Columbia Announces 2008 Bancroft Prize Winners: Esteemed Historians Allan M. Brandt, Charles Postel, and Peter Silver to Receive Awards."

Princeton University, History Department Web site, (July 24, 2008), author faculty profile.

About this article

Silver, Peter (Peter Rhoads Silver)

Updated About content Print Article