FC 85 The Heathen School with John Demos

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is Dr. John Demos, the author of the book The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic.

Bio – Dr. John Demos

The Heathen School with John Demos on Fieldstone Common

Photo: Michael Lionstar

John Demos is the Samuel Knight Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University. He was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College, and received his graduate training at Oxford, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard. Some of his books include A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, for which he received the Bancroft Prize, and The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America which won the Francis Parkman Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Book Summary

The astonishing story of a unique missionary project—and the America it embodied—from award-winning historian John Demos.

Near the start of the nineteenth century, as the newly established United States looked outward toward the wider world, a group of eminent Protestant ministers formed a grand scheme for gathering the rest of mankind into the redemptive fold of Christianity and “civilization.” Its core element was a special school for “heathen youth” drawn from all parts of the earth, including the Pacific Islands, China, India, and, increasingly, the native nations of North America. If all went well, graduates would return to join similar projects in their respective homelands. For some years, the school prospered, indeed became quite famous. However, when two Cherokee students courted and married local women, public resolve—and fundamental ideals—were put to a severe test.

The Heathen School follows the progress, and the demise, of this first true melting pot through the lives of individual students: among them, Henry Obookiah, a young Hawaiian who ran away from home and worked as a seaman in the China Trade before ending up in New England; John Ridge, son of a powerful Cherokee chief and subsequently a leader in the process of Indian “removal”; and Elias Boudinot, editor of the first newspaper published by and for Native Americans. From its birth as a beacon of hope for universal “salvation,” the heathen school descends into bitter controversy, as American racial attitudes harden and intensify. Instead of encouraging reconciliation, the school exposes the limits of tolerance and sets off a chain of events that will culminate tragically in the Trail of Tears.

In The Heathen School, John Demos marshals his deep empathy and feel for the textures of history to tell a moving story of families and communities—and to probe the very roots of American identity.

Publication Info The Heathen School with John Demos on Fieldstone Common

Title: The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic

Publisher: Knopf (2014)

Hard cover; 337 pages with with end notes, an index and eight pages of photographs.

The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic is available for purchase from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

The Interview

John Demos and I dive into the details of this unusual tale of Christianity and Mission schools in the early 19th century. The twist to the story is that the Mission was located in the small town of Cornwall, Connecticut not half way around the world. We talk about the motivations and goals of the Christians and the fate of the students. Of course, we talk about how this local story has national prominence with the connection to Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears. A truly fascinating story.

Links mentioned during the interview:

Prize Winner

One copy of The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic was given out to the Fieldstone Common audience courtesy of Knopf.

The winner is:

  • Jack Vietas of Taiwan

Congratulations to our winner and thanks to Knopf for their generosity in donating the book!

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

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http://www.fieldstonecommon.com/the-heathen-school-john-demos

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FC 65 A Little Commonwealth with John Demos

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is Professor John Demos, author of the books The Unredeemed Captive; Entertaining Satan; and A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. In this episode we discuss these books as well as his career and the state of history in America.

Bio

John Demos was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated from A Little Commonwealth with John Demos on Fieldstone CommonHarvard College, and received his graduate training at Oxford, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard. He has taught at Brandeis and at Yale, where he is the Samuel Knight Professor Emeritus of American History. Some of his books include A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, for which he received the 1983 Bancroft Prize, and Past, Present, and Personal: The Family and the Life Course in American History. Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America received the National Book Award in 1994. More recently he published Circles and Lines: The Shape of Life in Early America.

Book Summaries

Professor John Demos is an expert in early American history. His book A Little The Unredeemed Captive by John DemosCommonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony recreates the life and family structures of members of Plymouth colony in the 17th century. In Entertaining Satan Demos provides an overview of witchcraft in New England in the 17th and 18th centuries. His work The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America focuses on the 1704 Indian raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts. The book describes the taking of the Williams family and the choice of daughter Eunice to remain among the Mohawk community.

Book Info

Books by John Demos:

The Interview

In this interview we discuss how John Demos came to be a history professor and the influence of his years in the Peace Corps in Ghana, West Africa. We talk about the influence of his book as well as those of three colleagues Ken Lockridge, Philip Greven, and Michael Zuckerman who all wrote seminal New England town studies in the early 1970s which changed the focus of Early American history.

We discussed three of his books – A Little Commonwealth, The Unredeemed Captive and Entertaining Satan and the influences they had on interpreting Early American history. Demos credits Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum for their theory of explaining the Salem Witch Trials on an economic basis in their book Salem Possessed.

His later research into witchcraft was metaphorical as exemplified by the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

John has grown to love material culture and that has manifested in his passion for collecting antiques.

He has had a great influence on a generation of new writer-historians including Jill Lepore, Allegra di Bonaventura, Jack Larkin, Jane Kamensky, Wendy Warren, Peter Silver and many more.

In early 2014 be on the lookout for his next book The Heathen School (Knopf, 2014).

Bonus List

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

News & Announcements

BIG NEWS for Android users! Fieldstone Common is now available in the Android app Stitcher. Stitcher is a program like iTunes but is available on the Android platform. Download Stitcher and search for Fieldstone Common or click here.

Question: What’s that’s new stuff in the Fieldstone Common title (FC 65)?

Answer: That makes it easier, especially for iTunes and other podcast listeners, to keep track of which episode they are listening to. FC stands for Fieldstone Common and 65 is the number of the episode.

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