redbyrd_sgfic (redbyrd_sgfic) wrote,

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Book: Mayflower

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

This is the history of the Pilgrims who first landed at Plymouth through the end of King Philip's War, the first of the Indian wars that preceded the American revolution.  

I found it compelling, particularly in the earlier part of the narrative, where it talks about who the Pilgrims were, how they decided to come to America and what made them different from the Puritans who followed them and settled in Boston and up and down the northeastern coast.  The author does a good job of separating myth from fact in the quintessentially American story of the First Thanksgiving.  What was striking about it was not so much what was myth but what was true.  The Pilgrims did come, did survive only with the assistance of their new friends, and did celebrate a feast together.    They also lived in relative peace with the native population for almost 50 years.  

The narrative jumps from them to their children and grandchildren as it relates the events that led to war.    The second half of the book was less interesting- and more depressing- in that it was more of a description of the misunderstandings, mismanagements and the fighting than of the people and their lives.  Not surprisingly, the English settlers brought much of it on themselves. 

A thoughtful book, if not necessarily an easy read.  The author couldn't resist adding occasional colorful but unsupported speculations , but was good about identifying them as such.    For me it satisfyingly filled a gap in my historical knowledge, since most of my history classes skipped more or less from Plymouth to the American revolution, with a brief overview of the French and Indian Wars of the eighteenth century.   It presents (I thought) a fair summation of the European ascendence to power on the North American continent and the tragic -and initially not deliberate- near-extermination of the native peoples. 

Now I'm off to the bookstore- not because I really need more books, but because I have gift cards burning a hole in my wallet- and the recent article by Steven Levitt makes me determined not to waste them!
Tags: books
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