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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 There were 102 of them 104 if you counted the two dogs Most of their provisions and equipment were beneath them in the hold, the primary storage area of the vessel The passengers were in the between decks a dank, airless space about seventy five feet long and not even high five feet h 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 There were 102 of them 104 if you counted the two dogs Most of their provisions and equipment were beneath them in the hold, the primary storage area of the vessel The passengers were in the between decks a dank, airless space about seventy five feet long and not even high five feet high that separated the hold from the upper deck A series of thin walled cabins had been built, creating a crowded warren of rooms that overflowed with people and their possessions chest of clothing, casks of food, chairs, pillows, rugs, and omnipresent chamber pots There was even a boat cut into pieces for later assembly doing temporary duty as a bed Nathaniel Philbrick, MayflowerWhen it comes to American history, we have a tendency towards reduction We cherish the myth over the reality the bombastic over the subtle the simple over the complex In modern media terms, we prefer the soundbite to the whole speech On the Fourth of July, for example, we aren t thinking about competing mercantile interests, unpaid French and Indian War debts, or the Townsend Acts Not at all Instead, as we get hot dog drunk and light off fireworks, we re probably imagining a guy with a wig and a tricorne hat saying something about freedom.History iscomforting that way It s easier It leavestime for drinking and nurturing feelings of superiority towards France Our earliest history, the first European settlements, can be boiled down to one image the Pilgrim Picture the Pilgrims with me grim, black coated men with stiff white collars and funny hats with buckles They grip their blunderbusses while their doughy, sexless wives grip their elbows In the brush, something is skulking It might be a sly turkey An Indian A witch A lost and disoriented Cotton Mather It doesn t matter The Pilgrim has that blunderbuss, and it s full of justice Nathaniel Philbrick s Mayflower is the story of how it really went down Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving It s probably not the story you heard in grade school Though I give you credit for recognizing that the story you heard in grade school was a lot of mashed potatoes and gravy Like all works of revisionism, Philbrick s book is both enlightening and a little disappointing I love history as much as anything, which is accompanied by a secret pleasure at puncturing historical myths But even I have to admit it s sometimes nice to be left with our illusions In this case, the illusion being that white men and Indians were able to come together in mutual cooperation Even though untrue, it s a fine notion A retroactive ideal to strive for going forward The reality, of course, is that the white men took the Indian s corn, took their turkey, then shot them metaphorically when they turned around Later, they shot them for real And kept shooting until Wounded Knee, near the dawn of the 20th century But back to the Pilgrims The story starts with the voyage of the titular ship The Mayflower was a typical merchant vessel of her day square rigged and beak bowed, with high, castlelike superstructures fore and aft that protected her cargo and crew in the worst weather, but made beating against the wind a painfully inefficient endeavor Rated at 180 tons meaning her hold was capable of accomodating 180 casks or tuns of wine , she was approximately three times the size of the Speedwell and about one hundred feet in length.Philbrick, who wrote the splendid whaling book, In the Heart of the Sea, once again tells a fast paced, informative story, filled with interesting little factoids that make you go, hmm For the most part, he does the same here Unfortunately, he is hampered by a dearth of sources The famous voyage of the Mayflower which gives the book its title is told in only a few pages This is due to the fact that the inveterate diarist William Bradford himself only devoted a couple paragraphs to the subject Without primary accounts to research, Philbrick has no choice but to move on It s an instance of source material driving the narrative Of course, the lack of primary sources is not Philbrick s fault He has not to my knowledge ever started a fire that burned a library full of Pilgrim diaries But nonetheless, it hampers any telling of this story By necessity, he must rely on Bradford a great deal, which gives a one sided view of what happened Famous events such as the signing of the Mayflower Compact are told through his eyes, without the benefit of corroboration We are left to hope that Bradford wasn t totally full of stuffing Once the Mayflower has dropped anchor and the Pilgrims gone to shore, the story picks up steam, helped by a widening circle of characters For instance, we get to meet Benjamin Church, who later became a famous chronicler of King Philip s War We are also introduced to the irascible Myles Standish, one of the livelier actors of this drama Myles Standish was officially designated their captain A small man with a broad, powerful physique and reddish hair, Standish also had something of a chip on his shoulder He seems to have been born on the Isle of Man off the west coast of England, and even though he was descended from the house of Standish of Standish, his rightful claim to ancestral lands had been, according to his own account, surreptitiously detained from me, forcing him to seek his fortune as a mercenary in Holland Well educated and well read he owned a copy of Homer s The Iliad and Caesar s Commentaries , he appears to have conducted himself with a haughty impulsiveness that did not endear him to some of the settlers, one of whom later claimed that the Plymouth captain looks like a silly boy, as is in utter contempt The centerpiece of the book is the first Thanksgiving Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was a creation of Abraham Lincoln, building on a proclamation by George Washington, who was looking for a bright side during the Civil War Today, Thanksgiving is a time of football, overeating, and letting your extended family know how much they have let you down The original seedling for Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Pilgrims being rescued from the brink with the help of the Wampanoag Indians Massasoit and Squanto.Countless Victorian era engravings notwithstanding, the Pilgrims did not spend the day sitting around a long table draped with a white linen cloth, clasping each other s hands in prayer as a few curious Indians looked on Instead of an English affair, the First Thanksgiving soon became an overwhelmingly Native celebrationMost of the celebrants stood, squatted, or sat on the ground as they clustered around outdoor fires, where the deer and birds turned on wooden spits and where pottages stews into which varieties of meats and vegetables were thrown simmered invitingly.This thanksgiving was the culmination of a great deal of sacrifice, risk, luck, and shrewdness We often view Massasoit as having saved the Pilgrims from starvation what we don t often dwell upon is the fact that the Pilgrims chose Massasoit as an ally, and in doing so, became a power player in the region The First Thanksgiving occurs just over a hundred pages into Mayflower There are well over two hundred pages left After the turkeys are eaten, the wine is drunk, and the drunk uncles are pushed out of the crudely built log cabins, Philbrick takes the burnished image of interracial cooperation gluttony and tears it to pieces What follows is treachery and war Anyone buying this book to read in preparation of the holiday should know that Philbrick is not interested in holidays On the other hand, if you like me enjoy horrifying your relatives with cruel historical fact, then get your wallets ready The Mayflower Pilgrims Thanksgiving angle is quickly left behind The final two thirds of the book are devoted to Pilgrim Indian politics and King Philip s War.This is certainly interesting stuff King Philip s War was an incredibly brutal, under acknowledged affair Proportionally, it was one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil 1 out of 65 English and 1 out of 20 Indians were slain Four of Massasoit s children died in the war Massasoit himself was already dead In the end, King Philip was shot, drawn and quartered, and beheaded His head was displayed in Plymouth for 20 years Happy Thanksgiving Pass the drumsticks Philbrick is an extremely talented historian and storyteller He has become one of those guys whose books I always read, but for whatever reason have never entirely loved Here, as hard as he tries to breathe life into this story, there s a coldness and distance to it This is a function of the material,so than the author So much of the Pilgrim tale is supposition what might have happened With a lack of primary accounts, a historian is left with the skeleton of an event Moreover, even where they exist, contemporary accounts are often of limited value They are not visceral and immediate they don t allow us to feel the history Rather, they often had a dual purpose, and being informative was a secondary concern for a great discussion of Benjamin Church and the literature of this period, see Richard Slotkin s Regeneration Through Violence I was very excited to read this book but I was ultimately disappointed This is an extremely readable, often entertaining account of a poorly documented period With its complex inter tribal politics and collection of vaguely known characters, I doubt you can do much better My disappointment probably hasto do with humanity itself, and its violent nature, than Philbrick s retelling of it It is a fine thing to believe in Thanksgiving, to imagine people coming together to help each other, to see cultural divides bridged with food and drink and merriment The reality is that the mythological Thanksgiving was a brief interlude in a grim tale of death and dismemberment Thus, when your family starts tearing itself apart over politics this Thanksgiving, you can find a quiet corner, drink a bottle of wine, and rest assured that it is closer to historical reality than is comfortable 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 Spoiler Alert The Mayflower lands in Plymouth Rocks fall, all the Native Americans die One of the most interesting things about Mayflower is how little of it actually dealt with the ship itself The Pilgrims are settled well, settled , and the Mayflower headed back to England to fall into disrepair and be sold for scrap by page 80 More than half the book is spent on King Philip s War and the events that lead to it, which actually concerns the two generations after the Mayflower s passenge Spoiler Alert The Mayflower lands in Plymouth Rocks fall, all the Native Americans die One of the most interesting things about Mayflower is how little of it actually dealt with the ship itself The Pilgrims are settled well, settled , and the Mayflower headed back to England to fall into disrepair and be sold for scrap by page 80 More than half the book is spent on King Philip s War and the events that lead to it, which actually concerns the two generations after the Mayflower s passengers Philbrick won a ton of awards with this one like, say, the National Book Award , all deserved He takes an excellent look at a period in time frequently overlooked American history tends to cover 1620, and then make its way to 1770 and the Revolutionary War in the next chapter with a slight layover in 1692 for the Witch Trials.It s incredibly well written, with an excellent balance between the big picture and individual narratives He s liberal with anecdotes, which keeps the book from ever getting dry or boring He quotes contemporary and first person accounts, but not excessively this is a book to be read for pleasure, not to be used as a resource I laughed out loud a couple times, and physically shuddered as well He reached that all important goal of bringing his subjects to life.Philbrick also does a good job of presenting a balanced version of events Especially considering that most contemporary sources were, at best, biased, because history, as we all know, is written by the victors He s quick to point out the mistakes on both sides the rash, racially motivated attacks made by the white settlers, and the never ending litany of missteps made by the Pokanokets, especially King Philip.A few quick observations I would very much like to slap Increase Mather across the face Preferably so hard that Cotton feels it, too What an enormous tool.These people were crap at naming their children Everyone was John, Mary, William, or FEAR Or Cotton No wonder they were all a little wacked.I love the irony of having a huge, gluttonous holiday celebration in honor of the Pilgrims, who regularly arrested and punished people for having big holiday celebrations They would put us all in the stocks.Is there any worse story than Thomas Granger s He will always and I mean always it s already been 350 years be known for being convicted of bestiality and executed for it That s embarrassing.And, finally How pissed is Miles Standish right now, what with how many times he was called short in this book I was enthralled with this popular history of the first 60 years of Plymouth Colony starting with the Mayflower landing in 1620 With a focus on the actions and decisions of a limited set of key individuals, Philbrick s account brings to life the initial desperate events of the colony half of the initial 102 died the first year and the early years of dependence on the support of the Pokenoket tribe I was enlightened to learn how decimation of Indian villages by disease and the competitive bal I was enthralled with this popular history of the first 60 years of Plymouth Colony starting with the Mayflower landing in 1620 With a focus on the actions and decisions of a limited set of key individuals, Philbrick s account brings to life the initial desperate events of the colony half of the initial 102 died the first year and the early years of dependence on the support of the Pokenoket tribe I was enlightened to learn how decimation of Indian villages by disease and the competitive balance between tribes contributed to the ability of the Pilgrims to gain a foothold In many ways, the sachem chief Massasoit was calling the shots in using the alliance with the Pilgrims to enhance his position with respect to rival tribes, and in turn Squanto s support of the colony as mediator translator was motivated by his own Machiavellian schemes Due to past cases of treacherous attacks and kidnapping for slavery on the part of English and French visitors, other tribes to the north and south would not tolerate colonists Thus, the Indians were not just passive dupes to exploitation and domination by European invades.Though the Pilgrims goal of religious freedom was not very tolerant of other belief systems as the Quakers learned and individuals executed for bestiality and other personal crimes , they were not empire builders and there was quite a lot of respect for the Indians at first Philbrick does well to dwell on the factors that contributed to the surprisingly peaceful subsequent period of colonial growth and expansion for nearly 50 years and then to spend half the book on the causes and details of its breach in King Philip s war of 1675, which decimated the Europeans and nearly extinguished several of the tribes in southern New England Philbrick s coverage of compassionate voices for peace and arrogant stupidity on both sides begs the question of whether the war was inevitable He points out how a sense of a Greek tragedy pervades the progression from a local conflict to an expanded war between several tribes and colonies throughout New England.As evident in two other books of his I enjoyed his survival saga of the whaling ship Essex and his history of the Battle of the Little Bighorn , Philbrick is a master of balancing the use of primary sources and interpretive reflection in a compelling narrative that rivals that of skilled fiction writers Philbrick clearly did a lot of research to write this book, but I have no way of telling how much of his synthesis is innovative vs derivative What I can say is that the book provided me a good foundation to negotiate the myths and divergent interpretations of European colonialism in the New World and to understand patterns that played out disastrously throughout the westward expansion over the subsequent 200 years Pilgrims Indians War This is an in depth look at the first years of the colonists in New England, and also the terrible war with the Indians that the next generation faced Philbrick s book is called Mayflower, but only the first section of it focuses on the sea voyage and the Mayflower Compact I was especially interested in learning what the colonists did in the early days of their settlement, how they adapted to the land and worked on their homes However, a majority of the book is about Ki Pilgrims Indians War This is an in depth look at the first years of the colonists in New England, and also the terrible war with the Indians that the next generation faced Philbrick s book is called Mayflower, but only the first section of it focuses on the sea voyage and the Mayflower Compact I was especially interested in learning what the colonists did in the early days of their settlement, how they adapted to the land and worked on their homes However, a majority of the book is about King Philip s War, which was the conflict between the Pilgrims and native Americans although the Pilgrims did have some Indian allies It s complicated.I had previously read Philbrick s book In the Heart of the Sea, which I really enjoyed, but I struggled to finish Mayflower I did learn some interesting details, including that before coming to the New World, the English Puritans first went to live in Holland because it was known for being religiously tolerant But they felt they couldn t stay there Their chief worry involved their children Gradually and inevitably, they were becoming Dutch The congregation had rejected the Church of England, but the vast majority of its members were still proudly, even defiantly, English By sailing to the New World, they hoped to re create the English village life they so dearly missed while remaining beyond the meddlesome reach of King James and his bishops I appreciated this look at early American history, and I m glad I read it, even though it was rather dense in the later chapters about the conflict I would still recommend it to those interested in readingabout the Pilgrims or the First Indian War.Opening PassageWe all want to know how it was in the beginning From the Big Bang to the Garden of Eden to the circumstances of our own births, we yearn to travel back to that distant time when everything was new and full of promise Perhaps then, we tell ourselves, we can start to make sense of the convoluted mess we are in today.But beginnings are rarely as clear cut as we would like them to be Take, for example, the event that most Americans associate with the start of the United States the voyage of the Mayflower.We ve all heard at least some version of the story how in 1620 the Pilgrims sailed to the New World in search of religious freedom how after drawing up the Mayflower Compact, they landed at Plymouth Rock and befriended the local Wampanoags, who taught them how to plant corn and whose leader or sachem, Massasoit, helped them celebrate the First Thanksgiving From this inspiring inception came the United States.Like many Americans, I grew up taking this myth of national origins with a grain of salt In their wide brimmed hats and buckled shoes, the Pilgrims were the stuff of holiday parades and bad Victorian poetry Nothing could beremoved from the ambiguities of modern day America, I thought, than the Pilgrims and the Mayflower.But, as I have since discovered, the story of the Pilgrims does not end with the First Thanksgiving When we look to how the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags maintainedthan fifty years of peace and how that peace suddenly erupted into one of the deadliest wars ever fought on American soil, the history of Plymouth Colony becomes something altogether new, rich, troubling, and complex Instead of the story we already know, it becomes the story we need to know Nathaniel Philbrick s book Mayflower appears at first glance to be merely a recounting of the Pilgrims journey to the New World and their miraculous survival that first winter culminating in the first Thanksgiving, that s all here, but takes up only about 80 pages of the 450 page book In reality, Philbrick offers the reader a complete history of Plymouth Colony from 1620 1691 when it was merged into Massachusets Bay colony The bulk of the narrative focuses on King Phillip s War 1675 76 f Nathaniel Philbrick s book Mayflower appears at first glance to be merely a recounting of the Pilgrims journey to the New World and their miraculous survival that first winter culminating in the first Thanksgiving, that s all here, but takes up only about 80 pages of the 450 page book In reality, Philbrick offers the reader a complete history of Plymouth Colony from 1620 1691 when it was merged into Massachusets Bay colony The bulk of the narrative focuses on King Phillip s War 1675 76 for my money one of the most fascinating and under reported armed conflicts in American History Philbrick chronicles the main engagements of the war, in a very evenhanded way, praising the colonists bravery when warranted, while at the same time not being afraid to call them the savage butchers that they clearly were He also does a great job of guiding the reader through understand the complex maze of ever changing alliances between the colonists and the various native tribes of the region, and analysing how the conflict s long term consequences helped shape America today An appropriate book to read this time of year A little bit of a backstory on this, one of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower so I have a personal interest in the people who made the journey.This book featured the well written information I have come to expect by Nathaniel Philbrick I enjoyed reading this piece of history.Possible spoilersI didn t give this book five stars, because I thought that one event was focused on too much, and not the actual people who made to journey and survived I won t say what the event it You have A little bit of a backstory on this, one of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower so I have a personal interest in the people who made the journey.This book featured the well written information I have come to expect by Nathaniel Philbrick I enjoyed reading this piece of history.Possible spoilersI didn t give this book five stars, because I thought that one event was focused on too much, and not the actual people who made to journey and survived I won t say what the event it You have to read the book and find out for yourself This was an experience similar to David McCullough s John Adams biography for me It opened my eyes to a world I only had vague images about And, I come away a little bit bitter and bothered by many different aspects of human behavior, the big one man s intolerance of other people and their cultures and many times, their ability to blame their bad behavior on the teachings of the Bible or other beliefs in whatever God they worshipped The Puritans wanted to get away from the religious rules an This was an experience similar to David McCullough s John Adams biography for me It opened my eyes to a world I only had vague images about And, I come away a little bit bitter and bothered by many different aspects of human behavior, the big one man s intolerance of other people and their cultures and many times, their ability to blame their bad behavior on the teachings of the Bible or other beliefs in whatever God they worshipped The Puritans wanted to get away from the religious rules and regs at the time so that they could practice their religion freely And yet, it s so ironic that they had very little ability to allow others that same freedom Disingenuous, proud, sure that God was calling every shot whether good for them or bad for them, they marched ahead with this plan, and it was only with the help of some of the Indians they were even able to survive early on While they were humble, had low numbers of people, had the support of the Indians, they were peaceful But as the next generations grew up, they became greedy, selfish and started pushing the Indians around like they were a nuisance, slaves, taking up space, etc And so, certain of the Indians banded together and started a holy war against their better equipped, better organized and unforgiving Englishmen Puritan and Pilgrims It seems like once blood started flowing, no one could think straight and many looked at the Indians as filthy dirty devils Certainly there was a tremendous case to be made from the Indian perspective that certain of the English were the exact same thing lying, killing, sanctimonious bastards who never lived up to promises they had made It has been easy for past historians to whitewash all of the things that happened This author pointed out that there were good and bad people on both sides of the fence Really good people But the end result for me is that the Indians were screwed, got a raw deal, lived in a whole different world that was virtually destroyed, and I feel sick about it Thanks for guiding me to this book, Michael A must read if you re from New England or interested in early colonial era history Philbrick s Mayflower is written to capture your interest in a way you might not expect a book on the Pil YAWN grims could You ll find muchdetail with waytruth in this book than anything you learned about those uptight prigs in elementary school Instead of the story we already know, it becomes the story we need to know This story had very little to do with the voyage of the Mayflower or even the Mayflower Compact but is indeed an in depth Story of Courage, Community, and War Growing up I had learned the popular version of the story of the Pilgrims They left Europe seeking religious freedom and after a difficult voyage on the Mayflower settled in New England where they struggled to survive and the Native Americans came to their aid Instead of the story we already know, it becomes the story we need to know This story had very little to do with the voyage of the Mayflower or even the Mayflower Compact but is indeed an in depth Story of Courage, Community, and War Growing up I had learned the popular version of the story of the Pilgrims They left Europe seeking religious freedom and after a difficult voyage on the Mayflower settled in New England where they struggled to survive and the Native Americans came to their aide There was a celebration with the Pilgrims and Native Americans that we now recognize as Thanksgiving and celebrate every November.Plymouth Colony consisted ofthan just Pilgrims They were joined on the Mayflower by others who were not part of their religious group The Strangers Half of the colonists died the first year and another ship brought additional colonists to Plymouth who were not Pilgrims Although the Pilgrims came to New England seeking religious freedom they were not very tolerant of others as the Quakers learned Individuals were executed for crimes that were a violation of their beliefs.I have heard stories of how Native Americans were decimated by disease brought over from Europe but didn t realize the scope or how soon this happened I also did not know about the many different tribes that lived in New England One of these was the Pokenokets whose sachem chief was named Massasoit who formed and allegiance with the Pilgrims in order to enhance his position with respect to rival tribes Another Native American who appeared to be supportive of the Pilgrims was named Squanto and acted as a translator but he was motivated by his own Machiavellian schemes Clearly the Native Americans were not just passive dupes to exploitation and domination by Europeans.I had never heard of King Phillip s War This was a 14 month conflict that nearly wiped out both the colonists and Native Americans Phillip was the European name given to Massasoit s son and the reason he was called King Phillip was due to the fact that he apparently equated himself with King Charles There was plenty of arrogance and stupidity on both sides and one has to wonder whether the war was inevitable.If there is a hero in this story I think it would be Benjamin Church, principal aide to Plymouth s governor, Josiah Winslow Throughout the conflict he appears to have recognized that the Native Americans were humans and not savages He was an advocate to use some of the tribes as allies He was also against selling Native Americans into slavery.This was an eye opening account of what life was really like in the earliest days of New England It was brutal and we should be thankful that colonists and Native Americans did not totally wipe each other out due to their arrogance and stupidity