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MAYFLOWER: A story of Courage, Community and War
By Nathaniel Philbrick
When I travel for leisure, I really enjoy reading books that connect me to the location I am visiting. So, this summer when my travels took me to Provincetown and Martha’s Vineyard, I dug through my book shelf and found an un-read paperback called Mayflower.
I selected the book thinking a paperback would be good for the beach but what I discovered was a story of discovery and conflict in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and of course, Plymouth Massachusetts.
To my surprise, I found myself reading this book at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, less than a mile from the location that the Mayflower first landed (pretty cool for a history nerd like me!).
What makes the book so fascinating is the way Philbrick shakes up and de-mystifies the myths of the Pilgrims and the story of Thanksgiving. He does this through extensive research (100 pages of chapter notes and bibliography and the end of the book) and connecting the story into four parts called; discovery, accommodation, community and war.
I think if you ask most people about early American history, they will tell you that it started with Columbus, then the Pilgrims and then the American Revolution. A large portion of Mayflower is written about King Phillips war (no, he was not the king of England), that started in 1675—about 55 years after the Mayflower landed (by that point, many parts of ‘New England’ were settled by the English).
King Phillip was the ‘king’ of the many Indian ‘nations’ and the war was crucial to founding of the future country called America (as well as the destruction of the native cultures). The war was brutal and decisive. When it was over, “Plymouth had formalized the process of removing potentially dangerous Native men and boys” by shipping them off serve as slaves.
For the Pilgrims, religion played a dominant role at first, but “by forcing the English to improvise, the Indians prevented Plymouth colony from becoming a cult of religious extremism”.