Wow… History come to life

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Sorry for the small pic, but I’m writing this in my phone. What marvellous modern technology! I’ve been working on reception for the last week at a solicitors, and as anyone who has ever worked on reception will tell you there comes a time when you need a good book. So, my first lunchtime I went to the Oxfam Bookshop and bought Mayflower: A Voyage to War, by Nathaniel Philbrick, published by Harper in 2006. I have often written about my love of America (blupdates passim ad nausuem) but rarely about my fascination with American history. This book covered a period that I have never really read about before – the Pilgrims, Puritans and the early New England colonies.

Philbrick claims early on that the usual quaint story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower, where everyone gets on and eats turkey with the Indians until that dastardly “King” Philip, actually belies a magnificent tale of violence, subterfuge and drama on an epic scale. The way he writes this book certainly treats the subject matter in this way. Vivid characters are brought to life on the page, both Indian and English. The early life of the pilgrims is explained, and their naïveté before the voyage and after they first landed is brilliantly portrayed. Who knew that the pilgrims had already spent months in modern day Massachusetts before settling in Plymouth? I do, now. Thanks, interesting book.

Throughout the pages Philbrick treats the ideological concerns of the puritanical pilgrims with care, while also pointing out how some of their beliefs may have restricted the colony from being as successful as its later neighbours. Philbrick finds time, too, to highlight some of the absurdities and odd goings-on in the colonies, such as a personal favourite of mine:

In 1642, seventeen-year-old Thomas Granger… was convicted of having sexual relations with “a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey”

You couldn’t make it up. This book manages to be many biographies, a social history and a military history all in one. A vivid, powerful history brought to life by a marvellous writer. Do read, if you find a copy. Truly magnificent.

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