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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War Hardcover – May 9, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 670 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this remarkable effort, National Book Award–winner Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea) examines the history of Plymouth Colony. In the early 17th century, a small group of devout English Christians fled their villages to escape persecution, going first to Holland, then making the now infamous 10-week voyage to the New World. Rather than arriving in the summer months as planned, they landed in November, low on supplies. Luckily, they were met by the Wampanoag Indians and their wizened chief, Massasoit. In economical, well-paced prose, Philbrick masterfully recounts the desperate circumstances of both the settlers and their would-be hosts, and how the Wampanoags saved the colony from certain destruction. Indeed, there was a first Thanksgiving, the author notes, and for over 50 years the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims lived in peace, becoming increasingly interdependent. But in 1675, 56 years after the colonists' landing, Massasoit's heir, Philip, launched a confusing war on the English that, over 14 horrifying months, claimed 5,000 lives, a huge percentage of the colonies' population. Impeccably researched and expertly rendered, Philbrick's account brings the Plymouth Colony and its leaders, including William Bradford, Benjamin Church and the bellicose, dwarfish Miles Standish, vividly to life. More importantly, he brings into focus a gruesome period in early American history. For Philbrick, this is yet another award-worthy story of survival. (May 9)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Mayflower rethinks the events and players that gave rise to a national mythology about Pilgrims living harmoniously with their Indian neighbors. Instead, Philbrick tells a story of ethnic cleansing, bloody wars, environmental ruin, and the deterioration of English-Indian relations. While he introduces familiar elements, Philbrick also recasts well-known characters like Miles Standish ("Captain Shrimp"), William Bradford, and Benjamin Church. Most critics agree that he provides a well-researched, unbiased revisionist history (though we should note that for years many people have been reading about the environmental devastation of New England, the bloody Indian-English wars, and the less-than-pious Pilgrims). If not as gripping as the National Book Award?winning In the Heart of the Sea (2000), particularly the second half, Mayflower nonetheless provides a harrowing account of survival and, despite its grim themes, a celebration of courage.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670037605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670037605
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (670 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on May 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nathaniel Philbrick's remarkable "Mayflower" is everything you'd hope a history book to be: illuminating, lively, and authoritative. This was simply a terrific read, a fascinating glimpse into the events and people serving as the first bricks in our nation's foundation.

Beyond the fairytale images of "The First Thanksgiving", most basic American history skips from the Mayflower's 1620 landing in Plymouth the American Revolution, glossing over the rich and brawling century-and-a-half spanning these two events. Philbrick zeroes in on the first half-century, stripping away the myth and homily typically associated with the Pilgrims and laying bare a fascinating tale of courage and deceit, of trusts forged and broken, of politics, religion, brutality, and war. All the familiar figures are there - William Bradford, Miles Standish, Pokanoket Indian chief Massoit, Squanto, and Edward Winslow, but Philbrick focuses on less celebrated figures like Benjamin Church and Massoit's son Phillip, who while hardy household names today leave behind legacies that helped shape what would become a century later the United States of America.

This is a story ripe with opportunity for politically correct revisionism, but the author walks a balanced line, alternately praising and condemning the deeds and players of both the English and the Native Americans. We learn, for example, that near-starvation in the first two years had as much to do with the Pilgrim's failed experiment in socialism as it did with harsh winters and poor soil. This led Bradford to adopt a policy allowing each family to grow and hunt not for the "commonwealth", but for themselves. Thanks to Bradford's newly discovered spirit of capitalism, the colony is soon producing a surplus of food.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick, so picked up his latest, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War. Mayflower is actually two books in one. The first part details the story of the Pilgrims and their establishing Plymouth Colony. The second part deals with an Indian war since named King Philip's War. Unfortunately, I enjoyed the first section much more than the second.

Philbrick's account of the Pilgrims is a fascinating tale, and I'm not sure how much is new to me and how much I've just forgotten. The author starts with the Pilgrims in England and chronicles their beliefs, their escape to Holland, their grueling voyage, the establishment of Plymouth Colony and their befriending of the Pokanoket Indians and especially, their leader Massasoit. The first year was especially perilous and over 50% of the settlers died within the first six months. Some of the original colonists were not religious men (Strangers as opposed to Saints). But they quickly realized that they all had to work together to survive. One of the most remarkable achievements by the Pilgrims was the drafting of the Mayflower Compact. Before they even landed in the New World, these men recognized the need to set up a civil government in which all must agree to obey laws set up by their elected officials. Today, the Mayflower Compact is a "document that ranks with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as a seminal American text." The Pilgrims are also to be admired for their ability to adapt and they were willing to try almost anything to survive. In this way, they "proved to be more receptive to the new ways of the New World than nearly any English settlers before or since.
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Format: Hardcover
At 480 pages, Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War is in many ways a complete history of the Plymouth Colony. What a read though, and the pages flew by.....Mayflower is well written. Philbrick does a masterful job at breathing life into characters who have, over time, almost become larger than life. As a child who was familiar with the Plymouth story, Chief Massasoit, William Bradford, and Miles Standish seemed hero like; characters who were super human. Philbrick does a great job of making them human, and believable.

Philbrick also manages to clearly tell the most often misunderstood part of the story, that of the Wampanoag tribes precarious situation when the settlers arrived. There was a first thanksgiving, and for over half a century the two cultures lived in peace. Then the world for both peoples exploded with a huge loss of life on both sides as the result. This sickening failure is held center stage in Mayflower. Philbricks wonderful descriptions of the early countryside is as realistic as anything else. I suspect that historians may find fault here and there throughout the novel, but for this reader, Mayflower is a terrific story about early America and the loss of so much promise.

I put down In the Heart of the Sea to quickly read Mayflower. As with other readers I am now a hooked fan of Mr. Philbrick and cannot wait for the next book. I predict Mayflower will be a run-a-way literary and commercial success.
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Format: Hardcover
Superbly crafted and even fast-paced much of the way, Philbrick has turned in a great nonfiction narrative, tying together pure history with delicate, artful commentary and engaging storytelling.

The first 150 or so pages bring you from Leiden to Plymouth and recount the first years of the Plymouth settlement. Philbrick's account of the story behind the pilgrimage - including a regretably brief examination of the Leiden expatriate community - are enlightening, crisp and for many I suspect, new.

He leans a little too heavily on indian fighter Benjamin Church and the events surrounding King Philip's War in the second half of the book, and the narrative lags. Not only because it seems that in the martial history Philbrick finds himself, certainly not over his head, but, out of his element; but also because the war years begin to feel like a story further separated from the Mayflower/Plymouth one than Philbrick supposes or intends to show.

Philbrick's research and recount are impeccable and are taken in large part from his work with the native oral history of the time. This approach informs a new understanding of the motivations and explanations for the events that transpired beginning in the early seventeenth century and continued into almost the early nineteenth.

The English conquest of the New World was not only a triumph of technology, but was indeed the ascendancy of an economic system, as global capitalism and its realities and rigors began to exert themselves in an onslaught that continues through this very day.
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