Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It took me forever to get through this book because life kept getting in the way of reading time, but it was well worth making the time to finish it. So many books about our Colonial beginnings obviously lean toward either the Europeans or the Natives. This book straddles the line fairly well.
The idea that the Europeans came and turned otherwise peaceful Natives into warriors to protect their homeland is a farce. The Natives were made up of warring tribes who had fought each other for years. And while it’s politically unpopular to admit, they also practiced slavery. They were not a pristine people free of the sins of the rest of mankind.
In the same way, the idea that the Natives just slaughtered Europeans without cause is also a farce. For the first time – ever – the British king was allowing ordinary, everyday subjects (they weren’t citizens yet) to own land. Think of that. Throughout history, land had belonged only to the gentry, to those with titles who were beholden to the king. On the American shores, that changed. And it created another sin known worldwide… greed. With land came a means to create wealth. The Colonists wanted more of the Natives’ land, and they were willing to fight for it.
So after decades of peaceful coexistence, along came King Phillip’s War, birthed in greed and fueled by distrust, bigotry (on both sides), and fear. Philbrick does a good job of showing the attitudes, atrocities, and virtues of both sides.
If you’re interested in Colonial America’s beginnings, this is a good book to read. It can be a little dry in spots, but most of it will hold even a mediocre history buff’s attention.