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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

2007 non-fiction book by Nathanial Philbrook

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A critical period in our history that Americans know precious little about.

  • Oct 20, 2009
A few years back I received "Mayflower" as a birthday gift from my mother-in-law.  Although I read lots of books about history and politics this is probably not a book I would have bought myself.  Shame on me.   In "Mayflower: A Study of Courage, Community and War" author Nathaniel Philbrick has done a splendid job of clarifying just what happening in New England in the years 1620 to 1676.  For sure it is a much more interesting and complicated story than I had ever imagined.  From the very first chapter I found "Mayflower" to be compelling reading.

The first part of "Mayflower" focuses on the voyage itself.  Personally I never knew that the Pilgrims had embarked on this journey not from England, but from the city of Leidon in the Netherlands.  Nor had I ever heard of the Speedwell, a vessel the Pilgrims had purchased for the express purpose of helping them to relocate to the New World.  You will learn why Speedwell was forced to abort its voyage just off the coast of Plymouth, England and how it came to be that the group travelled to the New World aboard the Mayflower.

After the long and arduous journey across the Atlantic the Pilgrims endured unimaginable hardships during the first few years on these shores.  A large number would perish from disease and starvation during the early days of Plimoth colony.  All the while the group would struggle to establish relationships with a number of different native American tribes in the New England area. For me, these complicated and ever changing relationships are really the heart and soul of "Mayflower".  You will come to understand why certain tribes gravitated to and were very supportive of the English while others would prove to be extremely hostile.  What's more you will discover why a great many of these alliances were extremely fragile and subject to change.  To fully understand what was happening you have to become acquainted with the key players.  Philbrick introduces us to important people like William Bradford, Edward Winslow and Benjamin Church as well as key Native American leaders like Massasoit and his son Philip.  And if you have never heard of King Philips War you will come to understand why this 14 month battle between the English and Native Americans would prove to be so decisive.  The inclusion of a number of large and well-marked maps throughout the book assist the reader in coming to a clear understanding of just what was happening in New England at any given time.

When my mother-in-law presented me with "Mayflower:  A Study of Courage, Community and War" for my birthday she mentioned that a local newspaper recommended this book as "great summer reading".  I would have to concur.  I simply could not put "Mayflower" down. This is a well written book that deserves your attention. You will learn an awful lot!  Highly recommended!
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More Mayflower: A Story of Courage,... reviews
review by . December 14, 2006
Once again we have an excellent history book that digs beneath the legends and the myths about some cherished part of early American history. This time its the folks who colonized Plymouth, and who may or may not have landed on Plymouth Rock (I've seen this rock, and for some reason the date 1620 is carved into it!). We get the background of these hardy pioneers in Europe, their awful crossing of the Atlantic, and their "starving time" that first year. Then we see that they were really sustained …
review by . September 13, 2006
Nathaniel Philbrick's exhaustive history of the first 57 years of the Plymouth colony and its relationship with the Indians. (Happily, throughout the book, Philbrick makes life easier for the the reader by disdaining politically correct terms like "Native Americans.") In its turn, Philbrick's history can also be exhausting. It is so filled with detail, much of it just slightly - and thus irritatingly - extraneous, that at times reading it is something of a battle. But the journey is worth it.     …
review by . July 04, 2006
In the genre of David McCullough's popular narrative history, award-winning author Nathaniel Philbrick tells with vivid prose the untold tale behind the "Pilgrims and the Indians." Meticulously researched, read "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War" only if you hold your American mythology lightly. Much of what we've learned from poetry, idealistic imagery, and elementary school texts is not so much wrong, as simple and shallow.    Philbrick tells the more complicated, …
review by . May 10, 2006
Once again Nathaniel Philbrick offers a well-organized and highly readable account of a pivotal period in American history - the founding of Plymouth Plantation and the 50 years of uneasy peace with the natives that culminated in the disastrous King Philip's War.    From Philbrick's descriptions of the tiny, fetid Mayflower's storm-tossed, tension-filled voyage to the war's bloody scalpings, beheadings and slaughters, the writing is vivid, visual and often gut-wrenching.    F …
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Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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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 ...
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ISBN-10: 0670037605
ISBN-13: 978-0670037605
Author: Nathaniel Philbrick
Genre: History, Biography, Colonial Period
Publisher: Viking Adult
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