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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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3,724941,403 (3.86)237
Member:LisaMaria_C
Title:Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
Authors:Nathaniel Philbrick
Info:Penguin Books (2007), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Reviewed, Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:ultimate reading list - history, 17th century, America, American, Massachusetts, American History, Colonial America, history, Indians, King Philip's War, Mayflower, Native Americans, New England, non-fiction, Pilgrims, Plymouth, Plymouth Colony, Puritans

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

Recently added byNinieB, private library, wm3395, SMHGLBH, UniversityofNumenor, AeshaMali, KKE, ericmcherry, Kurt35, PlymouthCC
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Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  Bookmarque | Aug 22, 2016 |
Some 35 million Americans today are to some degree descendants of the Pilgrims who came to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Although the November sea voyage entailed hardships enough for the approximately 102 passengers and 30 crew members, these difficulties were nothing compared to what they encountered when they decided to go ashore in the relatively unpromising ground that became Plymouth Colony. This is their compelling story, and I listened to the audio version.
The Pilgrims’ greatest fear was the Natives, but their biggest foes turned out to be harsh climate and lack of food, which contributed to high rates of death from disease. Despite their early anxieties, the Mayflower Pilgrims developed a good and mutually beneficial relationship with the powerful Pokanoket chief Massasoit and some other tribes. Philbrick provides keen insight into what each leader was thinking when they made the choices they did.
Before long, other, less devout settlers arrived and mingled with the Pilgrims. In 1630, seventeen ships delivered approximately a thousand English men, women, and children to the vicinity of Boston, and soon the Massachusetts colony grew to include modern New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and the more religiously tolerant Rhode Island. Several of my ancestors arrived with prominent Puritans in 1634, settling in Boston, Salem, and New Haven. I wanted to read this book to find out more about what their lives were like.
This rapid influx created an almost unquenchable demand for Indian lands, and the settlers made the lives of Natives increasingly difficult. The children and grandchildren of the Pilgrims cared little for the aid their forefathers had received from the Natives. You can feel the rising tension and frustrations. In 1675, Massasoit’s grandson Philip had enough. He launched what became known as King Philip’s war—a bloody, three-year conflict, in which Colonial towns and Native camps were burned, and the area economy devastated.
In the sixty or so years covered by this book, a number of remarkable personalities emerge—among them Miles Standish, Josiah Winslow, Massasoit, William Bradford, Roger Williams, and America’s first Indian fighter, Benjamin Church. Philbrick’s descriptions of these men and their personalities makes them come alive on the page and lets you understand their motivations. The military leader Benjamin Church is a good example. Unlike some of his colleagues, Church’s first thought was not wholesale slaughter of the Native population, but rather he tried “to bring him around” to the Colonists’ way of thinking. This approach, Philbrick believes, became a precursor for the Founding Fathers a century later, as Church “shows us how the nightmare of wilderness warfare might one day give rise to a society that promises liberty and justice for all.”
If you are one of the 35 million noted above, you may find this book especially fascinating, as Philbrick recounts surprisingly detailed personal histories of a great many Mayflower passengers.
George Guidall is a frequent narrator of thrillers and many other types of books. He does a fine, job here with a straight narration. ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Jul 22, 2016 |
Full Disclaimer: I am a bit of a history nerd.
American History...not so much.
I am always down to lodge intellectualized attacks against Western Civilization, however. What better fodder than the Pilgrims' treatment of Native Americans?
We all know Thanksgiving is a farce (National Holiday decreed by none other than Honest Abe). But what about 1620? The nitty grit of it - the 1st winter in Plymouth?
Philbrick spins a decent yarn. His style of prose is easily digestible and fully detailed. What stands out the most in this work is the depths of the colonizers depravity after the Native Americans' many kindnesses disappeared from their generational memory.
We all knew they sucked -- but not until reading this book did I learn the abhorrent degree of suckitude.
And I also learned a thing or two of succotash. Not the suffering kind.
You've got to read it for yourself - no spoilers here.
I enjoyed this book very much. Recommended. ( )
  apomonis | Jun 2, 2016 |
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War – Nathaniel Philbrick
Audio performance by George Guidall
3 stars

There’s more to our colonial history than a ship, a rock and a 3 day feast. It’s not surprising that a close look at the facts reveals more than the well-warn legends remembered from early elementary school. Philbrick gives a very readable of the Mayflower landing in 1621 and the continuing history of the colony through the rest of the century. George Guidall is an excellent voice artist, but as with other non-fiction books, I found it easier to attend to the printed text.

I was surprised at how often there was actually some factual basis for our national myths. The Native Americans did assist the Pilgrims! Of course it wasn’t always about simple human kindness. I’m sure I never knew just how severely European diseases had depleted Native populations even before the Mayflower landing in 1621. I was not surprised that the Pilgrims had no scruples about exploiting the native population, but I had not considered that Massasoit and Squanto had their own plans for grabbing power and influence.

Philbrick assembles his facts clearly. He kept my interest by pointing out the relevant and ironic connections to the development of the United States and to more recent history.

“In 2002 it was estimated that there were approximately 35 million descendants of the Mayflower passengers in the United States, which represents roughly 10 percent of the total U.S. population.”

And about the Mayflower Compact, “It is deeply ironic that the document many consider to mark the beginning of what would one day be called the United States came from a people who had more in common with a cult than a democratic society.”

And sadly: “ It has been estimated that at least a thousand Indians were sold into slavery during King Philip’s War, with over half the slaves coming from Plymouth Colony alone. By the end of the war, Mount Hope, once the crowded Native heart of the colony, was virtually empty of inhabitants. Fifty-six years after the sailing of the Mayflower, the Pilgrims’ children had not only defeated the Pokanokets in a devastating war, they had taken conscious, methodical measures to purge the land of its people.”

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
The author gives a very detailed discussion of the people who came over on the Mayflower, their community and their relationship with the Native Americans. Thanksgiving will never be the same for me. ( )
  addunn3 | May 21, 2016 |
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Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We all want to know how it was in the beginning. - Preface
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. - Chapter 1
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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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