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John Eliot’s Mission to the Indians before King Philip’s War

John Eliot’s Mission to the Indians before King Philip’s War

Richard W. Cogley

ISBN 9780674475373

Publication date: 04/30/1999

No previous work on John Eliot's mission to the Indians has told such a comprehensive and engaging story. Richard Cogley takes a dual approach: he delves deeply into Eliot's theological writings and describes the historical development of Eliot's missionary work. By relating the two, he presents fresh perspectives that challenge widely accepted assessments of the Puritan mission.

Cogley incorporates Eliot's eschatology into the history of the mission, takes into account the biographies of the proselytes (the "praying Indians") and the individual histories of the Christian Indian settlements (the "praying towns"), and corrects misperceptions about the mission's role in English expansion. He also addresses other interpretive problems in Eliot's mission, such as why the Puritans postponed their evangelizing mission until 1646, why Indians accepted or rejected the mission, and whether the mission played a role in causing King Philip's War.

This book makes signal contributions to New England history, Native American history, and religious studies.


  • Based on a decade and more of research, this book offers a full and balanced treatment of the work of the most notable English missionary to native Americans in the 17th century and one of the half-dozen most intriguing personalities in early New England. Cogley brings to the study a fuller grasp of Puritan thought than previous students of the subject. He sheds fresh light on English and native cultures, the style and psychological functions of Eliot's famous praying towns, and the distinctively 'puritan' element in the place and period. With no ideological axe to grind, and grasping Eliot's project within the larger sweep of Puritan religious and eschatological ideals, he offers a number of correctives to prevalent views of Eliot's mission as a tool of English cultural and geographical imperialism. His argument, that the mission was more a way to counteract rather than to aid English domination, will spark lively debate.

    —T. D. Bozeman, Choice


  • Richard W. Cogley is Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press