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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community,…

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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3,851981,340 (3.86)252
Title:Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
Authors:Nathaniel Philbrick
Info:Viking Adult (2006), Hardcover
Collections:Your library

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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick (2006)

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I remember doing the little Thanksgiving sketch in grade school, the one with Pilgrims and Indians all sharing a nice dinner of turkey and cranberries and shaking hands to be friends. Turns out that wasn’t particularly accurate. For one thing, they probably didn’t have cranberries. For another, that wasn’t the start of a peaceful new era with everyone living Happily Ever After. War was looming over them.

In Philbrick’s book, he talks about how the Pilgrim Fathers and the Native Americans, mainly Massosoit’s tribe, got off to a bit of a rocky start. But they were each committed to peace and were able to work things out. If the story ended there, America would look very different today. But it didn’t. Fifty years later, their children and grandchildren had forgotten what they each owed the other and focused only on what they wanted. What happened next was tragic.

I really liked this book, but it took me a while to read it because I knew how it all ended – with a war. And not a war like the American Revolution, which Philbrick has also written about, one that ended with a new nation and us sending King George’s soldiers packing and rejoicing all around. But one that ended with a virtual genocide.

Parts of this book were really hard to read. There were atrocities on both sides. The amount of racial hatred – on both sides, but especially among the English – was pretty disgusting. But it did help me understand the American character and the military traditions that eventually emerged from this conflict. If you are a history fan, I would recommend this one. It was a solid, if sobering read. Be sure to read it in a physical format at the maps are essential to understanding the story. ( )
  cmbohn | May 9, 2017 |
I’m continuing on my quest to read more about world history this year, since I enjoyed India After Gandhi and A World At Arms so much last year. I bought a couple of books about American history – since I didn’t grow up here, I don’t know a lot of basic history that people learn about in school. I decided to start with Mayflower because the Pilgrims and their story are so embedded in the cultural consciousness of America, but I really don’t know much about what actually happened.

Mayflower is well-written and well-researched, but it isn’t the definitive history of the Mayflower voyage that I was hoping it would be. The first third of the book talks about the Pilgrims and their preparations for the voyage, the voyage itself, and the first year of their life in the colonies. This was the most fascinating part of the book. It covers things like why the Pilgrims chose to settle at the site of Plymouth, how their first contact with the Native Americans went (not well), what they did to survive (steal corn, for example), what they planned and how their plans went awry, how they finally established good relationships with the Native Americans, and things like that. Unfortunately this level of detail stops right after the “First Thanksgiving”, and the book skips ahead about fifty years to the story of how Native-British relations soured and led to King Philip’s War.

The rest of the book is a history of King Philip’s War, which was interesting as well since I didn’t know anything about that time period, but I find socio-political and economic histories much more interesting than histories of war, so I was a little let down. The author mentions that in the intervening time, New England was settled much more extensively and infrastructure developed (for example, a judicial system), but doesn’t go into any of the interesting details – how the governments were formed, how the settlers spread outside Plymoth, what kind of political relationships they had with the new settlers, how they managed to become self-sufficient and developed trade relationships – none of that is explored.

Instead, Philbrick goes into a thorough history of the war – the various battles, the actions of the Native American leaders (with special attention paid to the infamous King Philip), and the troop movements of the British settlers. There are some interesting tidbits in there (I found the formation of Rhode Island interesting, for example), but the focus is definitely on war. I was a little bored by all the details. Philbrick compares the devastation of the war to the Civil War and World War II in terms of the percentage of population killed, but the fact remains that most of the battles involved a dozen to a hundred men. There were a few bigger battles, and it’s clear that the impact on the Native American population was significant, but with most of the sources available to reconstruct what happened being on the British side, it makes the telling very one-sided.

I think this is a book still worth reading, but I wish it had been called King Philip’s War instead of Mayflower – but the lack of name recognition means it probably wouldn’t have done so well. ( )
  kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
With less than 100 pages to go, I'm calling it quits on this book. The subject matter just doesn't appeal to me.
  cknick | Dec 14, 2016 |
Excellent engaging book about the Mayflower settlers. This book pretty much wipes out all the fairy tales of the Mayflower and the "Rock" and all the standard tales we're told as kids... but the truth is far more interesting. The book is long, and maybe not every section is riveting, but overall is an awesome book. I think the true story of the Mayflower is as interesting a history as it gets. ( )
1 vote marshapetry | Oct 14, 2016 |
After two books I have become a Philbrick devotee. I have his newest on deck and another on order. The way he strings events together, keeping tension and anticipation tight while imparting tons of information is spellbinding. Even during the third part of this book which was about King Philip's War, I was held fast and I normally skim a lot of war scenes in books.

The story of the first English colonists to wash up in New England has become a myth stripped of most of its reality. We have visions of dour Pilgrims in tall hats and shoes with buckles, seated at a deal table breaking bread with smiling, stoic Indians. It’s so ingrained that it requires some effort to come to grips with the reality. Here’s some things I learned -

The Pilgrims and later the Puritans were a bunch of intolerant, bloodthirsty assholes. Both sets of “christians” came to exercise their right to worship how they wanted, but neither could allow anyone else this right. Instead the both try to stamp out the other and anyone who dares to disagree; like the Indians and non-religious settlers. The Indians were appalled at the slaughter the English got up to when in battle. Normally an Indian battle was a show of force and bravado; only a few warriors were killed and never the elderly, women or children. Neither did they rape their female captives, something we know Europeans have long been enthusiasts. Eventually though, the Indians got the hang of wholesale slaughter and got pretty good at it.

Miles Standish wasn’t much more than a thug. A convenient bludgeon wielded by the Pilgrims who didn’t deign to carry out the violence they needed to keep the Indians down themselves. Instead however much they claimed to disapprove of Standish, they let him do their dirty work; inciting fights where there weren’t any or exacerbating disagreements until it escalated into bloodshed. Also he was a short guy who had to cut 6 inches off his regulation sword lest it drag on the ground. Funny.

Both the Indians and the English manipulated each other and exploited factions and divisions to further their own ends. In the case of King Philip’s War it started because the English would impose their laws on people who already had laws. Two Indians killed another and the English put them on trial and executed them. Things like that kept happening and almost against his will King Philip (aka Metacomet, sachem of the Pokanoket tribe) went to war to keep the English from taking more advantage. Because the English quickly decided all Indians were hostile and evil, a lot of other tribes got sucked into the conflict when they would rather have been neutral. Eventually the English realized that using some Indians against others was an advantage and the tribal divisions were used against them.

When the war was winding down and over, many hundreds of inconvenient Indians were sold into slavery, ending up at brutal sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

The Wampanoag tribe didn’t exist before the English colonists. It came about to bond several tribes together in the face of the English presence. Massasoit, sachem of the Pokanokets and King Philip’s father was instrumental in creating the new tribe.

We have an idea of Indians living harmoniously the the land and showing the backward colonists how to flourish in the harsh New England climate. Truth is most of them were living hand to mouth and went hungry a lot of the time. There was a visit from the Plymouth leaders to Massasoit’s village and there was no food. None for the people that lived there and none for the guests. For two days and nights the visitors ate nothing and neither did the villagers. This happened a lot and not just to one tribe.

There was no direct representative of the English crown or government until the 1690s when James II sent someone. No oversight. No governor. Nothing. Basically the settlers were sponsored by groups of merchants and were expected to pay them back in the form of goods, but they created their own laws and government, unlike Virginia and other colonies in the south. It shed a new light on why the New England colonists got so mad about the English crown once a bunch of them started to poke their noses into things.

Oh and a big Duh to me. If I’d been taught who King Philip was, I’d evidently forgotten (somehow I think I never knew), and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which king it was. I never heard of an English King Philip. Maybe he was French or Dutch or something. But no, he was an Indian who changed his name. I didn’t know it was a common practice in Massachusetts at the time. And I wish more of the Indian place names were still in use, even though there are a lot of them that still are. Having been born in New England and lived there for 40+ years, I really liked returning to all those lovely words. Is Massachusetts the only state named for an Indian tribe? I’ll have to google. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Aug 22, 2016 |
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First words

We all want to know how it was in the beginning.
Chapter 1
They Knew They Were Pilgrims

For sixty-five days, the Mayflower had blundered her way through storms and headwinds, her bottom a shaggy pelt of seaweed and barnacles, her leaky decks spewing salt water onto her passengers' devoted heads.
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Nathaniel Philbrick's The Mayflower and the Pilgrims' New World (2008) is a young adult adaptation of this title, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (2006). Please distinguish between the two Works. Thank you.
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How did America begin?
This simple question launches acclaimed author Nathaniel Philbrick on an extraordinary journey to understand the truth behind our most sacred national myth: the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of Plymouth colony. As Philbrick reveals in this electrifying new book the story of the Pilgrims does not end with the First Thanksgiving instead it is a fifty-five year epic that is at once tragic and heroic, and still carries meaning for us today.

The account begins in the cold and dripping confines of the Mayflower, where 102 passengers tensely await the conclusion of an arduous, two-month voyage. The Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for the Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups - the Wampanoags, under the charismatic and calculating leader Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall - maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England erupted into King Philip’s War, a savage conflict that nearly wiped out English colonist and natives alike, and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them.

Philbrick evokes the drama of the voyage, the eerie emptiness of coastal New England in the fall of 1620, and the large and small decisions that determined how everything would unfold for centuries to come with a vigor and incisiveness that will startle anyone who thought they knew the story of the Pilgrims. But above all, he surprises us with the human story beneath the myth. These are characters whose names have become legend - William Bradford, Edward Winslow, Miles Standish, Massasoit, and Squanto - but whom Philbrick brings to life as flawed, heroic, temperamental, and shrewd. We also meet figures who are lesser know, though we live their legacy every day; Benjamin Church, the Plymouth-born frontiersman who used his knowledge of his Indian neighbors to help the English to a bloody victory; and Massasoit’s son Philip, a tortured, enigmatic leader who reluctantly led his people into the war that would bear his name.

That crucial half-century, from 1620 to 1676, began in peril, ended in war, and contaminated the seeds of what would come to define America. Philbrick salutes the real courage of the Puritan true believers, willing to risk all for their religious convictions, as well as the generosity and sophistication of the Native Americans.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143111973, Paperback)

Nathaniel Philbrick became an internationally renowned author with his National Book Award? winning In the Heart of the Sea, hailed as ?spellbinding? by Time magazine. In Mayflower, Philbrick casts his spell once again, giving us a fresh and extraordinarily vivid account of our most sacred national myth: the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of Plymouth Colony. From the Mayflower?s arduous Atlantic crossing to the eruption of King Philip?s War between colonists and natives decades later, Philbrick reveals in this electrifying history of the Pilgrims a fifty-five-year epic, at once tragic and heroic, that still resonates with us today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:45 -0400)

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From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as author Philbrick reveals, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a 55-year epic. The Mayflower's religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans, as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England erupted into King Philip's War, a savage conflict that nearly wiped out colonists and natives alike, and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them. Philbrick has fashioned a fresh portrait of the dawn of American history--dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.--From publisher description.… (more)

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