Beaten Down: A History of Interpersonal Violence in the West

Paperback | April 1, 2005

byDavid Peterson del Mar

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Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003

The word "violence" conjures up images of terrorism, bombings, and lynchings. Beaten Down is concerned with more prosaic acts of physical force—a husband slapping his wife, a parent taking a birch branch to a child, a pair of drunken friends squaring off to establish who was the "better man." David Peterson del Mar accounts for the social relations of power that lie behind this intimate form of violence, this "white noise" that has always been with us, humming quietly between more explosive acts of violence.

Broad in its chronological and cultural sweep, Beaten Down examines interpersonal violence in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia beginning with Native American cultures before colonization and continuing into the mid-twentieth century. It contrasts the disparate ways of practicing and punishing interpersonal violence on each side of the U.S.-Canadian border. Del Mar concludes that we cannot comprehend the causes and moral consequences of a violent act without considering larger social relations of power, whether between colonizers and original inhabitants, between spouses, between parents and children, or between and among different ethnic groups.

The author has drawn on a vast array of vivid sources, including newspaper accounts, autobiographies, novels, oral histories, historical and ethnographic publications, and hundreds of detailed court cases to account for not only the relative frequency of different forms of violence, but also the shifting definitions and perceptions of what constitutes violence. This is a thoughtful and probing account of how and why people have hit each other and the manner in which opinion makers and ordinary citizens have censured, defended, or celebrated such acts. Del Mar’s conclusions have important implications for an understanding of violence and perceptions of violence in contemporary society.

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Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003The word "violence" conjures up images of terrorism, bombings, and lynchings. Beaten Down is concerned with more prosaic acts of physical force—a husband slapping his wife, a parent taking a birch branch to a child, a pair of drunken friends squaring off to establish who was ...

David Peterson del Mar is adjunct assistant professor of history at Portland State University and Oregon State University. He is the author of What Trouble I Have Seen: A History of Violence against Wives.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:312 pages, 9.02 × 5.98 × 0.76 inPublished:April 1, 2005Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295985054

ISBN - 13:9780295985053

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroductionA White Fist on Their Noses: Colonization and ViolenceTo Take Your Own Part: Violence among the SettlersI Was Not There to Fight: The Decline and Persistence of Violence in the Late Nineteenth CenturyPlucky Women and Crazed Indians: Representing Violence and Marginality in Seattle, Portland, and VancouverTo Do Just as He Pleased: Violence in the 1920sBig as God Almighty and Undemanding as Dew: Violence and People of African and Japanese DescentEpilogue: Discovering ViolenceAbbreviationsNotesSelected Bibliography of Secondary SourcesIndex

Editorial Reviews

Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003The word "violence" conjures up images of terrorism, bombings, and lynchings. Beaten Down is concerned with more prosaic acts of physical force—a husband slapping his wife, a parent taking a birch branch to a child, a pair of drunken friends squaring off to establish who was the "better man." David Peterson del Mar accounts for the social relations of power that lie behind this intimate form of violence, this "white noise" that has always been with us, humming quietly between more explosive acts of violence.Broad in its chronological and cultural sweep, Beaten Down examines interpersonal violence in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia beginning with Native American cultures before colonization and continuing into the mid-twentieth century. It contrasts the disparate ways of practicing and punishing interpersonal violence on each side of the U.S.-Canadian border. Del Mar concludes that we cannot comprehend the causes and moral consequences of a violent act without considering larger social relations of power, whether between colonizers and original inhabitants, between spouses, between parents and children, or between and among different ethnic groups.The author has drawn on a vast array of vivid sources, including newspaper accounts, autobiographies, novels, oral histories, historical and ethnographic publications, and hundreds of detailed court cases to account for not only the relative frequency of different forms of violence, but also the shifting definitions and perceptions of what constitutes violence. This is a thoughtful and probing account of how and why people have hit each other and the manner in which opinion makers and ordinary citizens have censured, defended, or celebrated such acts. Del Mar’s conclusions have important implications for an understanding of violence and perceptions of violence in contemporary society. Beaten Down is an outstanding social history of how violence has affected the everyday lives of individuals. Del Mar examines, above all else, how interpersonal violence is connected to the larger cultural processes that unfolded in the Pacific Northwest over two centuries. - Keith Edgerton, Montana State University—Billings