Thursday, 2 November 2017

From multiculturalism to genocide

The Mayflower colonists, some of the earliest and certainly among the most famous of the early settlers from Europe in North America, displayed a fundamental change in their behaviour in the hundred or so years after their arrival. I didn't know that the national holiday of Thanksgiving was instituted by Abraham Lincoln to celebrate the way the settlers sat down together and ate with American Indians; yet within a few years the settlers’ attitudes to the American Indians had become increasingly hostile, ultimately becoming genocidal. From multiculturalism to genocide is quite a dramatic shift. What caused it? Why was it that “The Puritans began to define themselves through was against the Indians, as the US historian Jill Lepore regretfully concluded”? And why did this attitude change happen in Boston and around, a city that today would be described as one of the most civilized and liberal places in the United States? Yet this was a city that in the seventeenth century had “a deserved reputation for harshness to women” (Rebecca Fraser, TLS, September 29, 2017). 

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