Sir William Phips & the Philosophy of History

full name / name of organization: 
Joe Conway/ ASECS (Cleveland 2013)
contact email:

Sir William Phips (1650-1695) was many things: a shepherd, a treasure hunter, a knight, champion of the earliest American paper money experiments, an Indian fighter, the governor of Massachusetts who oversaw the Salem Witch Trials, a pirate who died disgraced and in exile from his native New England, and (not last) a Puritan saint. Though mostly illiterate himself, Phips was written about extensively in the 1690s by his contemporaries Cotton Mather and Daniel Defoe. Later, his memory lived on in one of Hawthorne’s earliest historical sketches (1830). These writers all see Phips as a liminal creature whose picaresque life exists at a series of thresholds: between romance and novelistic discourse; between the mythopoeic Puritan worldview and an empirical scientific one; between theocracy and bourgeois liberalism; between treasure and capital; between James II and William III; and between the geographical zones of trans-Atlantic empire.
We are interested in critical interventions into the “case of William Phips” that seek to lay bare the historical contradictions within it. Some possible paper topics include:
- Phips role as imperial go-between (between the English and Americans; between the colonial and indigenous; between English and French colonists
- Phips and social mobility
- Phips and the Salem Witch Trials
- Mather, Defoe, and/or Hawthorne on Phips
- Phips and new economic criticism
- Phips and Anglo-American crises of political legitimacy
- Phips as imperial functionary
- Phips in the circum-Atlantic context
- Phips as adventurer
- Phips and the religious history of New England
- Phips and piracy
- Phips as war general

Please send abstracts by October 20, 2012 to Joe Conway (

cfp categories: