Newell's 'Brethren by Nature' Receives History Book Prize

November 7, 2016

Newell's 'Brethren by Nature' Receives History Book Prize

Margaret Newell

Margaret Newell, professor and vice chair in the Department of History, has been awarded the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Prize for 2016 from the Massachusetts Historical Society for her book, Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery (Cornell University Press, 2015). The book is began with a 2006 research grant from the Mershon Center.

In Brethren by Nature, Newell uses diaries, letters, court records, and newspapers to reveal the scope of Indian slavery in 17th- and 18th-century New England, where the English enslaved thousands of Native Americans and, in 1641, Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize slavery. The desire for slaves led to Indian wars and importation. Yet as Indians helped to raise English children and labored for colonial farmers and tradesmen, they practiced Native customs and foodways with varying degrees of agency and shaped colonial life. Newell's book describes this influence, the relationship between Indian and African slavery, and the ability of some Indians to pursue freedom while establishing legal precedents that would affect later generations of enslaved people.

The MHS is the oldest research archive in the United States devoted to the study of American history. The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize is given to the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year. Newell will receive the award in an event at the Society on January 31, 2017.