Q&A with David Silverman

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Get to know David Silverman, author of Thundersticks and professor of History at George Washington University who specializes in Native American, Colonial American, and American racial history…

What author or book inspires you most, now and/or at any time in your career?

I’m a big fan of the fortuitously named historian of the West, Elliot West. His books, particularly The Last Indian War and The Contested Plains always manage to strike that difficult balance between analytical heft and narrative verve. He’s one of the sharpest wits and intellects in the business.

What is your favorite part of participating in book festivals?

Interacting with readers from all walks of life.

When did you realize you wanted to write this book?

Right at the beginning of my training as a historian. The summer after my first year in graduate school, I took a job as a colonial interpreter at Jamestown settlement. My responsibilities included a daily militia drill in which I fired replicas of seventeenth century firearms in front of throngs of tourists, including particularly excitable ten-to-twelve-year-old boys for whom this was the highlight of their vacation. This experience taught me the ease of learning to fire these weapons, and something of their destructive power. It also put me on the lookout for ways indigenous people incorporated guns into their lives.

Which part of the book are you most proud of?

The continental and chronological scope. It’s the first time someone has captured the extent of this phenomenon across space and time.

What are you working on next?

A Wampanoag Indian centered history of Plymouth colony and the Thanksgiving holiday, to be released in 2020 in conjunction with the 400th year anniversary of the founding of Plymouth.

Catch David Silverman at the 2017 Virginia Festival of the Book in Indian Wars, Firearms and the Early American Arms Race with Laura Trevelyan (The Winchester).