Salisbury’s central argument revolves around a few contentions:
- the decimation of the Native American population was primarily due to disease, which in turn created sufficient vacuum for European military exploitation of the surviving native population;
-that the Puritan worldview was greatly influenced by a religious utopian view of the establishment of New England;
- and that the economic and social revolutions of Europe which found new ground in North America (something of a twin-headed virgin soil epidemic in themselves), and not simply the cultural differences between natives and Europeans, were a significant factor in the unraveling of events in New England, particularly in the realm of economic consequences for native autonomy.
These last two strike me as being of a piece.The economic revolution exported from Europe to New England was a major tenet of Puritan/Calvinist dogma and the particular religious utopianism defined the entirety of New England, and this particular strain of Protestantism was merely a component of the religious upheaval which had engulfed Europe.
Some reviewers complained at the time of publication that Salisbury painted the Puritans as "domineering and avaricious" (Alden Vaughan) and the the overall treatment demonstrated "a lack of empathy for English settlers” which results in a “somewhat lopsided” brand of ethnohistory (Glenn LaFantasie), or noted a distinct similarity to Francis Jennings’ The Invasion of America.However, Allen Trelease suggested Salisbury’s work is the antithesis component of a Hegelian dialectic at work in Native American-European contact ethnohistory, a necessary step on the way to true synthesis which “recognizes mixed motives and fallible behavior on both sides.”I am inclined to agree.Salisbury has apparently been at work on a follow-up volume, which will extend its scope to the conclusion of King Philip’s War, since publication of this work in 1982, which will bring his own work precisely into the same period as Jennings.Assuming the second book is published, it will be interesting to see how thirty years of dialectic has manifest itself.