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Interviews | March 17, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Peter Stark: The Powells.com Interview

Peter StarkIt's hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world. In 1810, four years... Continue »
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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

David_B, December 21, 2006

--A Ground-breaking Revival of Pilgrim History--
This is one of the best histories of the Mayflower Pilgrims in several generations. Mr. Philbrick reminds us that the Pilgrims were not just the inspiring icons behind Thanksgiving, but also the exceptional forebears of modern Americans. Mr. Philbrick illustrates this theme by focusing on a series of little known wars that the Pilgrims fought with the Indians. When confronted by unexpected hostilities, the Pilgrims reacted very much like our own era -- the fabled unity of the Mayflower Compact dissolved into a divisive debate of war and peace. For example, the Pilgrims' military advisor, Captain Miles Standish, argued for a hard line with the Indians, while Edward Winslow, a deputy governor of Plymouth Colony, sought a peaceful coexistence. Both men, though, had a physical courage that armchair hawks and doves of today are unlikely to duplicate-- the Pilgrims routinely exposed themselves to astonishing danger in pursuit of their beliefs, even pacifist ones.... Nevertheless, the existence of Pilgrim warfare may surprise many readers, especially given the abundance of sugar-coated fairy-tales about the early settlers. However, the Pilgrim experience in war is also uncomfortably familiar to our own troubled era. For the Pilgrims, a supposed quick, easy victory against poorly-armed natives degenerated into an endless cycle of violence. There are many lessons in Mr.Philbrick's book for modern Americans.... However, if there a shortcoming to this book, it is an overemphasis on war at the expense of other aspects of the Pilgrims. The book discusses little of what really made the Pilgrims tick on the inside. This is an unfortunate omission. Scholars have recently demonstrated, that if the phrase "love and war" ever described a people, the Pilgrims were those people. To learn more about this softer side of the story, e.g. love, I might suggest THE TIMES OF THEIR LIVES: LIFE, LOVE, AND DEATH IN PLYMOUTH COLONY, by James and Patricia Scott Deetz, or my restored ROMANCE OF PILGRIMS: A GREAT AMERICAN LOVE STORY, based on a poem by Henry Longfellow. (Although some dismiss Longfellow as overly sentimental, the poet was the first to portray the dynamic personalities of the Pilgrims, as well as the grim details of Indian warfare - 150 years before Mr. Philbrick's superb rediscovery.)
--Reviewed by D. Bradford, editor & co-author, ROMANCE OF PILGRIMS
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