reading4years, January 31, 2007 (view all comments by reading4years)
Very disappointing. This is exactly the type of history book I do NOT enjoy. The first third of the book was promising, with lots of interesting details on the Puritans while in England, their first relocation to Holland, their arrival at Cape Cod, and their first year struggling to survive in their new settlement at Plymouth. Too much of the remainder of the book, however, consisted of descriptions of battles some 50 years later, between the English settlers and the Indians led by "King Phillip" . . . page after page of the battle sites, how many of each side were involved, how many muskets or flintlocks they had, how many died. I was hoping for more a "social history", in which the author elicited empathy or any kind of feeling in the reader, but instead found the narrative tedious. I'll give Philbrick credit for at least one thing, however. He showed clearly how the white man changed the way the Indians waged war. Before European settlement, Indian wars took few casualties; the Europeans taught them how to massacre and aim for genocide.
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David_B, December 21, 2006 (view all comments by David_B)
--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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by Janet Maslin, New York Times,
"A judicious, fascinating work of revisionist history. Mayflower is a surprise-filled account of what are supposed to be some of the best-known events in this country's past but are instead an occasion for collective amnesia."
by Boston Globe,
"Readers who pick it up to learn more about the Mayflower and its passengers will find themselves pulled into a much bigger and ultimately more meaningful story."
by Washington Post,
"We like our history sanitized and theme-parked and self-congratulatory, not bloody and angry and unflattering. But if Mayflower achieves the wide readership it deserves, perhaps a few Americans will be moved to reconsider all that."
by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
"Philbrick's tightly focused account of this critical time in the beginning of the United States confirms that its origins are tinged with blood, darkness, ignorance and betrayal with shafts of light here and there."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Philbrick triumphs in Mayflower because he combines it with empathy to challenge...myths about America's beginnings."
by Seattle Times,
"[A] part of American history almost unknown...one can go through 12 years of public school...without ever hearing of Massasoit, the Pokasset tribe or King Philip's War."
by Library Journal,
"Philbrick delivers a masterly told story that will appeal to lay readers and history buffs alike."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"In Philbrick's graceful retelling of a story many think they already know, the virtues and vices of each culture are given their due....A remarkably sensitive account."
"A sterling synthesis of sources, Philbrick's epic seems poised to become a critical and commercial hit."
Nathaniel Philbrick, the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea and Mayflower, brings his prodigious talents to the story of the Boston battle that ignited the American Revolution.
Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residentsand#160; have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord.and#160; In June, however, with the city cut off from supplies by a British blockade and Patriot militia poised in siege, skirmishes give way to outright war in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It would be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution to come, and the point of no return for the rebellious colonists.
Philbrick brings a fresh perspective to every aspect of the story. He finds new characters, and new facets to familiar ones. The real work of choreographing rebellion falls to a thirty-three year old physician named Joseph Warren who emerges as the on-the-ground leader of the Patriot cause and is fated to die at Bunker Hill. Others in the cast include Paul Revere, Warrenandrsquo;s fiancandeacute; the poet Mercy Scollay, a newly recruited George Washington, the reluctant British combatant General Thomas Gage and his more bellicose successor William Howe, who leads the three charges at Bunker Hill and presides over the claustrophobic cauldron of a city under siege as both sides play a nervy game of brinkmanship for control.
With passion and insight, Philbrick reconstructs the revolutionary landscapeandmdash;geographic and ideologicalandmdash;in a mesmerizing narrative of the robust, messy, blisteringly real origins of America.
From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals in his spellbinding new book, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound.
The Mayflower's religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups—the Wampanoags, under the charismatic and calculating chief Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall—maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England would erupt into King Philip's War, a savagely bloody conflict that nearly wiped out English colonists and natives alike and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them.
With towering figures like William Bradford and the distinctly American hero Benjamin Church at the center of his narrative, Philbrick has fashioned a fresh and compelling portrait of the dawn of American history—a history dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.
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