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

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,6961111,759 (3.88)269
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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English (108)  French (1)  All languages (109)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
This book is written in such a way that I felt for all those involved as I never had in my school education. It was easy to read and filled with information that was new to me. I enjoy reading historical books, especially when it is obvious that time and research was invested in the creation of the story.
I recommend this book highly.
I was given this book by NetGalley and Penguin Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. ( )
  ksnapier | Feb 6, 2021 |
This is a lackluster rating from me; I'd rather give it 2.5 stars. It started out strong and then felt flat and repetitive once the war started. Maybe I just don't enjoy reading about the details of war. The battles all sound the same to me, and I don't care about each small group's movements, who fired a musket, who escaped for the umpteenth time, ad nauseum. However, the first half of the book was very interesting and showed how realistic the Pilgrims' story was compared to our whitewashed myth. I also really enjoyed the narrator for this audiobook; he was the perfect diction and tone for this historical nonfiction without being stuffy. ( )
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower re-examines one of the founding narratives of the United States to demythologize the Pilgrims’ settlement in Massachusetts in 1620, focusing on how the journey itself developed among European religious conflict and how the Pilgrims came into conflict with the Native Americans on whose land they settled. At the beginning of his narrative, Philbrick alternates between the actions of the Pilgrims in England and Leiden and the political status of the Pokanokets, one of the members of the Wampanoag, in Massachusetts following intermittent contact with prior Europeans and the ravages of disease. Rather than settling an untouched wilderness, the Pilgrims arrived in a land that had just emerged from a holocaust due to European diseases (pgs. 96-97), with the various groups in the Wampanoag confederation re-evaluating their alliances and territorial claims. As Philbrick writes, “In 1620, New England was far from being a paradise of abundance and peace. Indeed the New World was, in many ways, much like the Old – a place where the fertility of the soil was a constant concern, a place where disease and war were omnipresent threats. There were profound differences between the Pilgrims and Pokanokets to be sure…, but in these early years, when the mutual challenge of survival dominated all other concerns, the two peoples had more in common than is generally appreciated today” (pgs. 108-109).

Rather than a narrative of inevitable European conquest, Philbrick portrays how they were, for a time, simply another political power in northeastern North America. In aligning himself with the Pilgrims and gaining their loyalty, Massasoit became the supreme power in Massachusetts and established the Wampanoag nation (pg. 142). Further, “In the forty years since the voyage of the Mayflower, the Native Americans had experienced wrenching change, but they had also managed to create a new, richly adaptive culture that continued to draw strength from traditional ways,” incorporating European goods and spirituality into their lives (pg. 172). Unfortunately, the arrival of the Puritans shifted the politics of the region. Where the Pilgrims sought to create a self-contained enclave, the Puritans expanded throughout New England, coming into greater and greater conflict as they bought as much land as possible, leading to King Philip’s War.

Philbrick concludes, “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” (pg. 307). Further, “By doing their best to destroy the Native people who had welcomed and sustained their forefathers, New Englanders had destroyed their forefathers’ way of life” (pg. 308). Philbrick’s account is essential reading for all who are interested in a deeper understanding of one of the founding myths of America. This Folio Society edition beautifully reprints Philbrick’s text with curated images from historical sources as well as several maps throughout. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Oct 30, 2020 |
Author of one of my most favorite history books ( )
  MarianneAudio | Aug 22, 2020 |
Philbrick is at his best with character and sustained narrative events ie. a singular story. His best book is In the Heart of the Sea for that reason it lends itself well to his strengths. In Mayflower we also get this for the first half of the book - the Pilgrims journey and settlement at Plymouth. The first weeks are enthralling as they explore their way around the Cape, I followed them with Google Maps. At some point the narrative speeds up and fragments, then we are into the second half mostly about King Phillip's War a few generations later. The war itself is told through highlights of battles. There is some mythology debunking, like Thanksgiving. And we learn it is estimated 10% of the US can trace a line to the Mayflower. The Indians seem fairly portrayed, though a sad story. The epidemics that preceded settlement are the main tragedy, played out in North and South America at scale and beyond comprehension, as the worst things are. I never realized how important the city of Leiden is to American history. Great introduction to a vital part of early American history. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Aug 6, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nathaniel Philbrickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Preface

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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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.

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Book description
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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