Ep. 25: Political Violence in Early America, Part I

Bacon's+RebellionIn the first of a two-part discussion, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers discuss the origins of political violence in early America, from Jamestown to the American Revolution.


Through discussion of such events as Jamestown, Bacon’s Rebellion, Leisler’s Rebellion, the Protestant Associators of Maryland, the New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741, the Stamp Act riots, tarring and feathering, and Jane McCrea, this episode explores conflicting definitions of “political violence,” the roles of class, race, and religion in violence by and against the state, the “contagion of violence,” the differences between individual and crowd-led violence, and the political power of fear and perceptions of potential violence.


  • What makes violence “political?”
  • What were some common causes of political violence in the seventeenth-century colonies?
  • Why did acts of political violence in one colony seem to make it more likely in another?
  • What was the political relationship between violence and fear in the colonies and how did it differ by region?


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*Below are some recent reading suggestions relevant to the specific topics discussed in this episode.

Hoock, Holger. Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth. New York: Broadway Books, 2018.

Irvin, Benjamin H. “Tar, Feathers, and the Enemies of American Liberties, 1768-1776.” The New England Quarterly 76, no. 2 (2003): 197-238

Lepore, Jill. New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan. New York: Vintage, 2005.

Rice, James D. Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Sharples, Jason T. The World That Fear Made: Slave Revolts and Conspiracy Scares in Early America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.

Tarter, Brent. “Bacon’s Rebellion, the Grievances of the People, and the Political Culture of Seventeenth-Century Virginia.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 119, no. 1 (2011): 2-41.

Zabin, Serena, ed. The New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741: Daniel Horsmanden’s Journal of the Proceedings with related documents. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2004.