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Making Haste from Babylonby Nick Bunker
Synopses & Reviews
The Beave of Mawooshen
The planters heare aboutes, if they will have any beaver, must go 40 or 50
myles into the country, with their packes on their backes.
—an English settler on the coast of Maine, June 1634
Seventy miles from the Atlantic, in the central lowlands of Maine, if you head west along Route 2 and cross the Sandy River you will see a line of mountains far away upon your right. Built of slate, they rise to more than three thousand feet. They reach their finest color on a winter’s day, when the air is sharp and cold and the sunlight turns their eastern slopes from gray to blue. Above the modern town of Farmington, they form the outlying ramparts of a dark massif.
Here the influence of the ocean ends, and the American interior begins. Behind the blue ridge, the high ground extends for sixty miles, as far as the frontier with Canada. Between hills black and shaggy with spruce but dusted white with snow, the road ascends an esker, a ribbon of gravel, dropped into place by a glacier fourteen thousand years ago.
The esker makes a platform for Highway 27. Along the road, you climb until you reach a narrow pass and a chain of lakes. Beyond them lies a gloomy wetland, called Hathan Bog, where in the dusk moose wander from the swamp across the asphalt. Then, a little farther on, the highway arrives at a plateau, and a liquor store, and a customs post, at a hidden place named Coburn Gore, where day and night the Frenchmen thump back over the border in their logging trucks. Like the valleys of West Virginia, the pass supplies an aperture, an entry into the land beyond the mountains, at the northern end of the Appalachian barrier.
At places such as this, the west begins: but where did America start for new settlers arriving from England in the 1620s or the 1630s? Maybe they saw it first from ten miles out on the ocean, with a glimpse of sandy cliffs along the eastern rim of Cape Cod, or at forty miles, if their first sighting was Cadillac Mountain, above Bar Harbor, visible to any ship bound in from Newfoundland. Or did the New World really begin later? Did its strangeness dawn upon them when they saw ice jamming a river mouth as late as April, or a belt of white wampum beads, or a field of maize, or a man in deerskin breeches, with a shaved head and a torso painted purple? The point at which the alien was glimpsed for what it was, alarming, uncanny, or sublime, might occur at any of these moments, or at none of them. Half of the early migrants simply faded and died.
There was another point when America began. The moment took place when new settlers crossed a different kind of boundary, when for the first time they could be certain that their colony was going to endure. So far as the Mayflower Pilgrims were concerned, this moment occurred in the territory in Maine that lay below Coburn Gore, in the year 1628. Eight years earlier, they had landed at Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the extremity of Cape Cod. Soon afterward they founded their settlement across the bay at New Plymouth. That was another beginning, but it was tenuous and frail. It took far longer for the Plymouth enterprise to make itself permanent, and to open the way for the foundation of Boston to the north, by colonists in far larger numbers.
Fraught with risk, the Mayflower project endured a long period of trial, experiment, and error. Deeply in debt
At the end of 1618, a blazing green star soared across the night sky over the northern hemisphere. From the Philippines to the Arctic, the comet became a sensation and a symbol, a warning of doom or a promise ofsalvation. Two years later, as the Pilgrims prepared to sail across the Atlantic on board the "Mayflower," the atmosphere remained charged with fear and expectation. Men and women readied themselves forwar, pestilence, or divine retribution. Against this background, and amid deep economic depression, the Pilgrims conceived their enterprise of exile.
Within a decade, despite crisis and catastrophe, theybuilt a thriving settlement at New Plymouth, based on beaver fur, corn, and cattle. In doing so, they laid the foundations for Massachusetts, New England, and a new nation. Using a wealth of new evidence from landscape, archaeology, and hundreds of overlooked or neglected documents, Nick Bunker gives a vivid and strikingly original account of the "Mayflower" project and the first decade of the Plymouth Colony. Frommercantile London and the rural England of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I to the mountains and rivers of Maine, he weaves a rich narrative that combines religion, politics, money, science, and thesea.
The Pilgrims were entrepreneurs as well as evangelicals, political radicals as well as Christian idealists. "Making Haste from Babylon" tells their story in unrivaled depth, fromtheir roots in religious conflict and village strife at home to their final creation of a permanent foothold in America.
"From the Hardcover edition."
Backed by privateering aristocrats, London merchants, and xenophobic politicians, they were sectarian religious radicals who lived double and treble lives: entrepreneurs as well as evangelicals, rebels as well as Christian idealists. Far from the storybook figures of American mythology, the Pilgrims were complex men and women, and Making Haste from Babylon tells their story in unrivaled depth.
Within a decade of landing, and despite crisis and catastrophe, the Pilgrims built a thriving settlement at New Plymouth, based on trade in beaver fur, corn, and cattle, and in doing so they laid the foundations for Massachusetts, New England, and a new nation. Using a wealth of previously untapped or neglected evidence--from archives in England, Ireland, and the United States--British author Nick Bunker gives a vivid, strikingly original account of the Mayflower project. From the rural kingdom of James I to industrial Holland and the beaver ponds of Maine, he weaves a rich narrative combining religion, politics, money, science, and the sea.
A meticulously researched, revelatory book that restores the potency of the Mayflower story by rediscovering the full international context of its time.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
A graduate of King’s College, Cambridge, with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Nick Bunker has had a diverse career in finance and journalism. A former investment banker and reporter for the Financial Times, he now lives with his wife, Susan, in Lincolnshire, England.
From the Hardcover edition.
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