The best books on seventeenth-century America

Jenny Hale Pulsipher Author Of Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England
By Jenny Hale Pulsipher

Who am I?

Jenny Hale Pulsipher is a professor of history at Brigham Young University and the author of numerous articles and two award-winning books, Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest of Authority in Early New England and Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England.


I wrote...

Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England

By Jenny Hale Pulsipher,

Book cover of Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England

What is my book about?

Swindler Sachem tells the story of an ingenious and complicated 17th century Native American man--John Wompas. Wompas's life upends common wisdom about Native Americans in the colonial era. He was a Harvard-educated scholar who became a sailor; he called the Nipmuc village of Hassanamesit his home but spent his adult life living among the English of Boston and London; he cheated his kin by selling their lands, then bequeathed all of Hassanamesit to them in his will; he secured an audience with the king of England, who called him his "loyal subject," and he was denounced by Massachusetts officials, who threatened him with foreign slavery.

In Swindler Sachem, Pulsipher uses the life of John Wompas to examine Indian-English struggles over Native land and sovereignty during an era of political turmoil in the English empire and reveals how one remarkable man navigated those perilous waters for the benefit of himself and his people.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather

By Michael G. Hall,

Book cover of The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather

Why this book?

Hall's biography of one of the most influential Puritans in colonial New England offers a rich reading experience. Mather had a finger in everything, and seeing New England through his eyes helps the reader make sense of the political and religious factions, doctrinal struggles, the relationship between lay people and ministers (always less conservative than their followers), and the sweetness and suffering inherent in family life.


American Slavery, American Freedom

By Edmund S. Morgan,

Book cover of American Slavery, American Freedom

Why this book?

This is a classic of American history from one of our greatest historians. Morgan was a master of both the art and the craft of history, and that skill is on full display in this account of the Virginia Colony from its early seventeenth-century founding, through a series of Native American/colonial wars, to the rise and solidification of American chattel slavery. Morgan insightfully probes the question of how a nation founded on liberty could give rise to the extremes of slavery and freedom.


Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

By Daniel K. Richter,

Book cover of Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

Why this book?

In Facing East, Richter uses both historical research and imagination to shift the perspective on early America from the west-facing European view to the east-facing Native American one. The result is a deeply researched, well written, and surprisingly moving book exploring a series of Native lives (Pocahontas, King Philip, Kateri Tekakwitha), events (Christian Indian missions, King Philip's War, the French and Indian War), and subjects (Native American trade, religion, the expansion of the English Empire).


Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676

By Walter W. Woodward,

Book cover of Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676

Why this book?

Woodward's biographical approach, and his good fortune in finding a subject who left so much material to peruse, allows readers to come to know early New England in rich detail. Winthrop was a man of wide interests, including alchemy, religion, and medicine, and he used his knowledge to contribute to the physical well being of his neighbors (Native and colonist alike), to steer the Connecticut Colony through political challenges, and to participate in trans-Atlantic scientific exploration. A fascinating read.


Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750

By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich,

Book cover of Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750

Why this book?

Ulrich, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Midwife's Tale, first wrote this ground-breaking study of women in early New England. With her characteristically elegant prose and inspired organization, she details the varied roles women played in family, community, and religious life. An illuminating work, and a page-turner.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Colonial America, New England, and England?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Colonial America, New England, and England.

Colonial America Explore 34 books about Colonial America
New England Explore 48 books about New England
England Explore 647 books about England

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Brethren by Nature, The Old American, and Witchcraft in Old and New England if you like this list.