Much has been written about the Pilgrims and their first few years in America, but as Nathaniel Philbrick explains in his book Mayflower a lot of what we have been taught is false. Philbrick does an excellent job chronicling the first sixty years of the Pilgrims’ settlement in America.
The book briefly covers the Pilgrims’ persecution in England and how many of them escaped to Holland to avoid further persecution â€“ and why they choose to leave Holland for America. It then details the torturous sea voyage on the Mayflower and their first hesitant steps in the New World. The bulk of the book covers the first few years of the Plymouth Colony and their relations with each other and the Indians. The book generally builds up for the last part â€“ King Philip’s War â€“ and how it affected race relations from then on in New England.
Philbrick has written a masterpiece on the first years of the Plymouth Colony. He thoroughly dispels many of the myths we have about these first European migrants to New England. For example, the Pilgrims did not first step foot on American soil on the Plymouth Rock, but instead on a sandy spit on Cape Cod. Another example is the first Thanksgiving wasn’t a Norman Rockwell painting with people sitting inside around a table with a cornucopia of food. In reality, most people either stood or sat on the ground around open fires that cooked deer or fowl on spits.
Philbrick also thoroughly explains the complex relations between the Pilgrims (and non-Pilgrims because many of the first settlers were not Pilgrims) and the Indians in the area. Initially, many of the Indians were either fearful or outright hostile to the Pilgrims because of past transgressions of other Europeans and the Pilgrims themselves (they stole a hidden cache of corn and they pilfered a grave). However, due to the benevolence of one of the Indian chiefs, the Pilgrims were able to survive that first year and eventually prosper.
I like how Philbrick puts the blame for King Philip’s War squarely on both the Pilgrims and the Indians. Although the Indians may have prompted the Pilgrims into starting the bloodshed, the Pilgrims were just as much to blame in their condescending manner toward the Indians and their land grabs. Although the original Pilgrims were able to live in harmony with the Indians, their children were not. The pure arrogance of some of the Europeans is astounding â€“ they thought they could beat the Indians with European-style warfare. Unfortunately for them , they were sadly mistaken.
This is a fine read for anyone interested in the first years of European settlement in New England.