J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

250 Years After Pontiac’s (and Others’) War

On 4-5 April, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in Philadelphia will host a conference titled “The War Called Pontiac’s, 1763-2013.” As you can see, this year marks the 250th anniversary of that frontier conflict, which is usually overshadowed by the French & Indian War.

The conference description says:
The 250th anniversary of what has long been known as “Pontiac’s War” offers scholars an opportunity to reexamine the conflict and its impact on the history of North America. The role of the Odowa leader Pontiac and the widespread scope and the varying aims of other Native participants in the conflicts of the mid-1760s defy easy categorization, a problem well summed up by historian Francis Jennings’s phrase, “The War Called ‘Pontiac’s.’”

Many contemporary British observers and combatants sought some conceptual clarity by casting the blame on French-inspired treachery. Many Native people located the treachery among the British. In the mid-nineteenth-century, Francis Parkman constructed an epic tale of a single charismatic Indian leader and the last gasp of a doomed people. More recent work offers a much more complex interpretation of an inter-Native movement grounded in Native spirituality and aiming to regain status as well as land for its Native participants in the new geopolitical world after the Seven Years War.
Among commanders in the siege of Boston, Gen. Thomas Gage oversaw the British army in North America in the latter part of this war, and Israel Putnam was part of the force recruited by Robert Rogers to reinforce Fort Detroit. Among the political legacies of the war was the British government’s conviction that enforcing the Proclamation Line of 1763 and maintaining significant troops in North America were both necessary for keeping the peace, even after that year’s victory over the French Empire. Both policies would, of course, lead to discontent in the Atlantic colonies.

This conference will consist mainly of discussions of pre-circulated (and hopefully pre-read) papers rather than lectures. It’s free and open to the public, but to gain access to those papers online attendees have to register at the conference website.

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