Book Review: Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over one hundred years before the Revolutionary War, the pilgrims and the other settlers along the Massechusets colony along with the Puritans were just finishing up with a twentyfive year war with the Native American Indians known as “King Phillip’s War”. It’s a war I never hear about, and the lead-up to that war, as described by renowned author Nathaniel Philbrick, tells a completely different story of the Pilgrims and their settling along Plymouth coast from the one that I and many North Americans were taught during our upbringing. It begins with the fascinating tale of a religiously conservative group of English Protestants who are outcasts in their Roman Catholic governed nation. Their flight to Holland, then back to England and on to the Colonies in 1616 to 1620 gives us a picture of a tighly knit religious sect of Christianity whose members were completely unprepared and unaware of the challenges they would face in getting to and upon arrival in, the New World. The well researched opening tale drew me into the story and even then, I was unprepared for the kinds of hardships of cold, hunger, and disease that these folks would encounter upon reaching the wild coasts of the North American continent and simply trying to find a place to land, build a small stockade and weather the first year near starvation. The understanding that the first contacts with Native Americans were far from cordial took me by surprise. The fortunate outcome of some complex negotiations between the two peoples with vastly different world views wold not have happened save for the appearance of Squanto. We see how Squanto’s years as an English captive, coupled with his ability to persuade Massasoit, a revered sachem of the greater Wampanoag peoples probably saved the Pilgrims from a similar fate of several previous attempts at American colonization which had resulted in the wiping out of the entire colony. Thus almost two years after their arrival in the New World, the Pilgrims are able to have a blow-out feast with the native Indians, which has come down to us today in what we call Thanksgiving. Author Philbrick has again done an amazing job of enlightening us about a little known piece of our history that should take it’s place in numerous classes and on our bookshelves as we learn and teach about our own country’s past and the local and immigrant peoples who worked and fought each other to make it what it is today.

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