Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

This Thanksgiving to get into the spirit of the holiday I read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, an award winning historian who has written books on the American Revolution, Custer's Last Stand, the Sinking of the Whaleship Essex etc.

Philbrick's book Mayflower published in 2007 tells the story of the Puritans coming to America in 1620, Provincetown Harbor MA.  He also takes the reader through the next 50 years of New England history culminating in King Phillip's War (1675-1678).  It was a war between the descendents of the Mayflower Puritans and Native Americans who greeted them upon arrival. Philbrick points out that in the 50 years prior to the outbreak of war both sides had gotten along well and had worked out a contract that kept the peace for half a century.

As Philbrick explains both sides needed each other.  The Native American population in the Cape Cod area had been decimated in the years prior to 1620 by disease brought over by European explorers. The Puritans after departing from the Mayflower were also sticken by disease.  Of the 102 who sailed on the Mayflower orly 53 were still alive by the following winter of 1621.  Both sides had a great deal to teach each other about crops, shelter, hunting, medicine. And in the beginning both the Puritans and Native Americans had visionary leaders who kept the peace.  But as the decades went by and more and more English settlers landed on the shores of New England grabbing land and not fairly compensating the Native American population, tempers began to mount.

Nathaniel Philbrick wonders in his book if things could have turned out differently and the tragedy of King Philip's War averted?  He does a very good job of detailing this period of American history including why the Puritans were willing to leave England risking their livelihoods and their lives. Mayflower shines a light on a period of American/English history that isn't taught much in schools but should be and Nathaniel Philbrick is an excellent guide.

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