Goode questions peaceful Quaker narrative in colonial America

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You can’t think about violence without thinking about peace, according to Michael Goode, assistant professor of early American history Feb. 22 at the Fulton Library.

Goode asked the audience what violence was. Answers such as “oppression,” “slavery,” and “warfare,” sprang from the audience. His question about what peace is, was met with greater silence. He said that violence is better theorized in history than peace and that many historians still struggle to define it.

His lecture was based around historical depictions of peace and violence in the early colonization of North America.

One of the claims Goode makes in his upcoming book, “A Colonizing Peace: The Quaker Struggle for Gospel Order in Early America,” is that peace and violence must be thought of in relation to each other, that they are defined through each other. The general consensus the audience settled on is that peace is the absence of violence.

Goode focused his study on violence and peace among the early settlers, specifically how their religious beliefs influenced the Quakers and Puritans colonization styles. Historically, a peaceful and deliberate narrative has been painted of the Quakers in their relations with the Native Americans and their colonization techniques. However, the early Puritans are painted in a more violent and aggressive light, in terms of how they colonized New England.

Goode said that there are two sides to every story. “Up until recently, historians have actually taken for granted the fact that the Quakers were peaceful guys and therefore, they are held blameless in colonization. My book project is intending to invert that in some ways and to think about the ways in which Quakers were also complicit in colonial violence. Not to say that Quakers were hypocrites or bad guys, but to actually think more seriously about what peace meant in early America,” he said.

The importance of understanding how colonization took place in early America with different groups of people, still holds relevance in our world today, said Goode. “You can’t think about violence without thinking about peace. They are both embedded together. The basic intention here is, it’s very important to think about how people think about peace. Because their forms of engagement in violence are directly implicated by that. Who do you think is appropriate to kill? When is it appropriate not to kill, or to torture, or enslave? Who to colonize or not to colonize.”

Goode built off a compilation of research he has been gathering since his graduate dissertation. His findings will soon be published.