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The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony [Paperback]

by James Deetz, Patricia Scott Deetz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 16, 2001 0385721536 978-0385721530 Reprint
James Deetz, who until his death was a leading expert on the archaeology of Plymouth Colony, and his wife, cultural historian Patricia Scott Deetz, give a realistic and fascinating picture of life in colonial America as they recount, in colorful detail, the true story of Plymouth Colony.

The Pilgrims were not the somber, dark-clad historical figures children learn about in school. Nor were they nearly as pious as we've been led to believe: they wore brightly colored clothing, drank heavily, had adulterous affairs, and committed both petty and serious crimes against their neighbors. Using court transcripts, wills, probate listings, rare first-hand accounts, and archeological finds, the Deetzes delve into everyday life in Plymouth Colony, accurately recasting one of the most cherished chapters of American history.

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-The authors demystify both the political realities and the daily social lives of the New England colonists popularly identified as "Pilgrims." Both casual readers and researchers are offered an engaging and edifying introduction to the actual ramifications of life in the early 17th-century colony. The Deetzes look at how order was maintained, relations with the native people, the roles and maintenance of law and punishment, gender relations, violence, death, and the habits of the hearth and home. While knocking down the mythologies that have taken root across the generations, the narrative supplies images that are just as lively and compelling. Sources are retained as notes at the back so that readers need not follow footnotes, yet have documentation close at hand.

Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Rejecting both the sacred myth of the Pilgrim fathers and the revisionist view of the rigidly repressed Puritans, the Deetzes present a radically different picture of the settlers who populated Plymouth Colony. To humanize their subjects within their historical context, the^B authors scrutinized a variety of primary sources, including court records, probate inventories, wills, archaeological artifacts, and first-person chronicles of life in the early settlement. Although vivid descriptions of folk customs, houses, and furnishings are provided, the detailed accounts of superstitions, sexual indiscretions, and criminal proceedings offer an especially fresh perspective on daily life in seventeenth-century America. Neither saints nor villains, the Plymouth colonists were very much a product of their unique social, political, and cultural environment. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721530
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pilgrims' Progress December 8, 2000
_The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony (W. H. Freeman) by James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz, takes the history we would like to believe about the Pilgrims and makes it the history that is history, not wishful thinking. Prepare to abandon cherished ideas: Pilgrims almost undoubtedly never set that first foot on Plymouth Rock. Pilgrims dressed in brightly colored clothes. They didn't live in log cabins. They didn't eat turkey for Thanksgiving. They shot guns off to celebrate that first harvest, but no one is on record of thanking anyone for anything on that day. The most frequent crimes for which they were tried were sexual ones, and premarital sex occurred at a shocking rate. The mythmakers of the nineteenth century found the supposedly pure Pilgrims more attractive than the rowdy, fortune-seeking crew at Jamestown, even though Jamestown preceded Plymouth.
The Times of Their Lives deals with the social history of the colony, but also examines how the historians and archeologists have been able to come to present conclusions, some greatly at odds with Pilgrim image. The book climaxes with a description of the changes at Plimoth Plantation, the recreation of the colony along the lines of something like Williamsburg. James Deetz was a director of the museum for eleven years, and took the radical position that visitors should be induced to believe that they had really entered the seventeenth century because nothing would be present that was not there at that time. This lively and fascinating book explains some of how the authenticity was confirmed and instilled in the museum. If we have to abandon some idealization of purity in our puritans, so much the better for a humane understanding of their history.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Work, But They Should've Done Even Better January 22, 2007
This book is a thorough piece of work - facts, dry text, colorful insights, dull academia, interesting human elements. It is a strange piece to review, as now that I have finished reading the book, I look back and can actually consider it to be a number of smaller works all contained within the save cover. With that in mind, I will comment on the "sections" individually as well as the work as a whole.

Archaeology: interesting subject matter for sure, the reader may well find themselves irresistibly drawn in to the discussions on the various referenced sites. However, the author in his/her attempt at describing orientations of items/foundations, etc., does a poor job. In many instances, a simple keyed diagram would have much more applicable and practical than long-winded and convoluted textual descriptions.

Lifestyles: flowing, page-turning descriptions of the subject matter at hand, be it the belief in the existence of witches, the settlement of estates, or the rules regarding fornication. Well done!

References to other work: must say that I was a bit disappointed with the occasional complete dependence on Demos' A Little Commonwealth.

Self-promotion: constant references by the authors to themselves in the 3rd person became annoying, carrying with it an unmistakable air of arrogance. And the disjointed and gratuitous "Postscript" written at the end of Chapter 6 by Patricia Scott Deetz that rambles on about her husband/co-author's many accomplishments was unnecessary and totally out of place.

Overall: A strange conglomeration of creative writing and storytelling ala Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick and drier Demos-style reliance and regurgitation of old probate records.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pilgrims through History, Myth and Archeology February 14, 2002
James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz's The Times of Their Lives (Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony) looks at the somewhat misnamed Pilgrims, including much recent archeological scholarship along with the usual documentary evidence upon which most historians exclusively rely. They show a great respect for the nineteenth century created myths surrounding the pilgrims while at the same time deconstructing them to present as realistic picture of this time as current research will allow. Along the way, they touch upon crime, sex, marriage, material culture, and food to give a full picture of the lives lived in Plymouth Colony, both British and Indian. The authors manage to make all of the archeological information quite palatable to the average reader. A nice read.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shatter the Stereotype June 3, 2001
In this interesting book, Deetz and Deetz develop a realistic picture of the original settlers of Plymouth Plantation. Basically, these settlers were not our Thanksgiving stereotype of devout religious dissenters, grim and disciplined, who wore shoes with big square buckles. Instead, these settlers were much more diverse, and were a mixture of religious separatists (the minority) and secular types in search of land and prosperity. Of particular interest to me was the authors' discussion of crime in Plymouth. One warning: The book has passages that suffer from political correctness. This reader found them distracting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Time of Their Lives by James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz is about the Pilgrims' culture in Plymouth Colony. The book explores Plymouth Colony through archaeological evidence. The thesis of the book is "Plymouth Colony has an organizing story that is worth recounting in all its colorful detail, enlivened and expanded by contemporary archaeology, cultural research and living history" (xv). This book gives an improved description of who the Pilgrims were.

This book clears up the false interpretations of the Pilgrims as being holy and enlightened by examining their behavior. The book tells about the myths of Thanksgiving in the first chapter. The myths are portrayed as inaccurate when looking at the affairs of the Pilgrims with the Indians. The Pilgrims' laws were based off of English law with adjustment to the new world when necessary. There was use of indentured servants. The book also goes into detail about the different laws and crimes committed. Some sexual crimes that have been documented are bestiality, sodomy, adultery, incest, and fornication. Domestic violence also occurred in Plymouth times. The court was also unlikely to grant divorces because of its strong belief on marriage. The book also explains the different housing in Plymouth Colony. The book goes into detail about the importance of archaeologist findings that explain Plymouth Colony.

The Time of Their Lives is a well-written book. The Deetzs use a lot of primary sources to provide first hand evidence to bring to life what it may have been like to live in Plymouth Colony. Court documents are used to demonstrate the types of crimes that were committed in Plymouth Colony and the punishments that were used.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
This is one of those books that if you have any interest at all in history, you must read it. If you feel like reading the genres of romance, horror, or you need a little dirty fix... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Angel Hiott
5.0 out of 5 stars Meat on the bones
I am a family historian, researching all eras and places where my ancestors lived. The Times of Their Lives brings history alive.
Published 12 months ago by Penny Stowe
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
My third son is an archaeologist, and he has introduced me to James Deetz--his favorite archaeologist for whom he named a kitten that he found. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Look at the Old Story
Dr. James Deetz presents much newly discovered material on the Pilgrims and their journey to the New World. Read more
Published on April 16, 2009 by Jane Hinds
4.0 out of 5 stars really good
You get the feeling Deetz is a bit of an ass, true, but the book speaks for itself; it's sensational. Read more
Published on November 28, 2003 by joe smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Deetz
An absolutely wonderful, detail-filled account of early colonial America by one of the greatest archaeologists of our time. He will be missed.
Published on November 5, 2001 by Jonathan G. Hardes
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Martin's Hundred quality book
Poor Deetz. His ego got in the way of a great book. There are some exceptional chapters... the one's that avoid his own personal agenda or self publicity attempts. Read more
Published on December 16, 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Times of Their Lives
A thorough, insightful and brilliant analysis.
Published on October 4, 2000
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