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Posted on May 31st, 2012, by

The book “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.”¯ by Nathaniel Philbrick, which was published in 2006, arose much enthusiasm and received numerous perfect reviews. Nathaniel Philbrick is famous for his vivid and fascinating descriptions of voyages and sailing and maritime history of theUSAin general. Being the director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies and studying both navigation and history ofAmerica, he creates works that are characterized by their factual accuracy and deep knowledge of the aspect.

No wonder that “Mayflower”¯ has overthrown the established views on the popular story of the Pilgrims’ settlement inNew England. The story of Mayflower is known to all Americans since their schooldays. There were 102 Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantics and in 1620 settled at the American land where founded the Plymouth Colony. Their voyage was hard but their first year was yet more difficult, severe winter took lives of more than a half of all passengers and Pilgrims managed to survive only due to the help of Indians. This is the brief summary of the well known tale about the happy cooperation of Indians and Pilgrims and the Thanksgiving Day. However, it does not let us know all the details of first attempts of the colonists to develop the new lands. It flatters the history ”“ the newcomers who seem to be well-intentioned and never hurt the Indians are typical images of Pilgrims in people’s conscience. Yet, the relations between the new settlers and the Indians were far deeper and complex.

Nathaniel Philbrick puts a new face on this episode from American history. In his book he aims to show that the occupation of American lands was not as peaceful and calm as it is thought. He discovers new facts and details of Pilgrims’ voyage and their settlement, generally basing on the memoirs of Benjamin Church, the military officer, who played a significant role during King Philip’s War, and the book “Of Plymouth Plantation”¯ byBradford. Grounding on the researchers, Philbrick tries to provide as precise information as possible in order not to cause contradictions concerning any facts.

Presenting his view of this historical episode, Philbrick does not intend to defame American history and those brave and courageous people who actually founded America but he just wants to show that this process was difficult, bloody and cruel. This colonization entailed thousands of human deaths both from American and Indian sides and led to the substantial reduction of the Indian population. The image of the Pilgrims as of sincere, guiltless people of faith is in fact too exaggerated and can be true up to a point. Pilgrims indeed tried to coexist peacefully with the Indian tribes but at the same time they were determined to hold every piece of the occupied land and never hesitated to fight for it. Unable to accept Indian way of life and culture, Puritans oppressed Indians and annihilated them.

Their relations worsened with time and led to more conflicts and battles. The second half of the book is devoted to the greatest conflict between Puritans and Indians, King Philip’s War that was one of the most fierce and tragic wars in the history of the United States. The son of Massasoit, named King Philip for his ferocity, began this war, which lasted for two years and took thousands of lives. The Plymouth Plantation lost about eight percent of male population while Indians’ losses several times exceeded those figures and were about eighty percent. Philbrick shows that this war could be avoided. It happened just because people were not interested in peaceful life and mutual understanding.

Besides, Philbrick highlights the significance of Miles Standish in the relations between Pilgrims and Indians. Few people know that this very person, famous under the nickname “Captain Shrimp”¯, influenced greatly the situation inNew England. He supported the hostility towards Indians among Pilgrims and excluded any possibility to establish diplomatic relations. Moreover, Nathaniel Philbrick shows the parallels between those times and nowadays, the issues that prevailed then and are acute today. Indians had to mortgage their lots to pay debts; forests were annihilated extensively in order to uphold Pilgrims’ villages.

Thus, Philbrick describes this passage of history rather critically and persuades people to treat history impartially, accepting all its manifestations. History should teach people but if they are ready only for tales with a happy end, it means that they can take no lessons for future. By his book “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War”¯ Philbrick attempted to show his view upon the settlement of the Plymouth Colony, drawing the attention to those details and facts that are forgotten nowadays but played an extremely important role in the development of American people. He points out the roles of certain people in that period and highlights the destiny of Native Americans, that is Indians.

To make a conclusion, the book “Mayflower”¯ is the work that discovers new sides of so well-known American history.

Its author appeals to people to regard things in a sober light, to take lessons for future, to accept and respect history as it is.

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