Charles Mann's most recent book, 1491, won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Keck award for the best book of the year. In this lecture he looks at new reserach on pre-Columbian America. He concludes that the Americas had actually been heavily populated and developed before the arrival of Columbus but then were rapidly depopulated by the introduction of numerous European and African diseases, giving Europeans the mistaken idea that their new land was a vast, empty wilderness.
Jill Lepore, Professor of Early American History at Harvard University, speaks about her book, The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, and traces the meanings attached to this brutally destructive war. Lepore examines early colonial accounts that depict King Philip's men as savages and interpret the war as a punishment from God, discusses how the narrative of the war is retold a century later to rouse anti-British sentiment during the Revolution and finally describes how the story of King Philip is transformed yet again in the early nineteenth century to portray him as a proud ancestor and American patriot.
John Demos, Professor of History Emeritus at Yale and the author of several books on early America and witchcraft, discusses the role of religion and witchcraft during the Colonial Era. He places the Salem Witch Trials in context and presents a larger picture of how early Americans viewed the spiritual world and their place in it.