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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War Hardcover – May 9, 2006
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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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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Top Customer Reviews
The settlement in Plymouth would not have survived the first year if it were not for their relationship with the Pokanoket Indians. The New England tribes were decimated by European diseases which they had no resistance to. Historians surmise that it was the plague that struck them in the first decade of the 17th century. The plague killed up to 90% of the Indians that had inhabited New England. The area where the pilgrims would eventually establish the first settlement of Plymouth had contained thousands of Indians just a few years prior to Mayflower's arrival. When the Pilgrims arrived it was unoccupied.
The Pokanoket tribe was hit especially hard by the plague and they were weakened more so than several of the neighboring tribes. These tribes, such as the Narrangasetts, took advantage of their weakened neighbors. The Pokanoket chief, Massasoit, leveraged his relationship with the Pilgrims to survive against the Narrangasetts. The two groups more than co-existed. The two groups had a symbiotic relationship. Unfortunatly, the Pilgrim’s ancestors had forgotten how critical the Pokanokets were to the survival of their forefathers. Subsequent generations of Puritans took advantage of the Indians. This led to a war with the Pokanokets that on a per capita basis was the bloodiest war in the history of North America.
The lessons gleaned form the pages of this book have been repeated over and over again throughout history. Bad policy started King Phillip’s war. It could have been easy to avoid. Revenge was taken by the frustrated Puritans who could not catch the warring factions so they conveniently took revenge against praying and neutral tribes. On the other side, allies of Pokanoket sachem King Phillip killed the relatives of Plymouth descendants of whom King Phillip considered friends. The conflict spiraled out of control.
The war was not going well for the Puritans until Mayflower descendant Benjamin Church recruited a strike force of Puritans and Indians from friendly tribes. He was able to convince warring Indians to change sides and join Church’s party. Church granted them amnesty and these Indians in-turn taught Church their tactics. They taught the Puritans how to move without being detected and how to avoid ambushes and how to set them. Church and his combined strike force used these tactics to hunt down King Phillip and to end the war.
The book gives Benjamin Church his due as one of the first great early American Indian fighters that you never heard of. Like the pilgrims, Church would not have been successful without his reliance on friendly Native Americans.
Enjoy the book.
The essence of the story is clear however, and the great difference between this historically correct accounting and what I remember learning in elementary school is stunning. For that reason alone, I would highly recommend this book. I would also say that the read got easier for me as I became engaged in the plight of the native indians and the unfortunate decisions made by leadership on both sides.
Missing, and disappointing for me, was the exploration of the women in the group of original and first generation of those who landed at Plymouth. This is likely due to the limited information and recording by those women. There was also limited character development, again likely due to the limited information available.
I loved learning of the female indian leaders, and the efforts and struggles on the part of all the indian leaders to build relationships and co-exist with the new arrivals. Again, that perspective makes this book a worthwhile read.
Nathan Philbrick does a great job of introducing familiar historical facts and then expanding on them and making this old story new. Highly recommend.
Conneticut and explains the whys and wherefore better. Nathaniel Philbrick wrote In The Heart of the Sea with such intensity... I did not find the same result with the Mayflower.
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