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Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History
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Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  56 reviews
At the end of 1618, a blazing green star soared across the night sky over the northern hemisphere. From the Philippines to the Arctic, the comet became a sensation and a symbol, a warning of doom or a promise of salvation. Two years later, as the Pilgrims prepared to sail across the Atlantic on board the Mayflower, the atmosphere remained charged with fear and expectation. ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Vintage (first published 2010)
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This Thanksgiving, in the spirit of season’s readings, I decided to get a book on the Mayflower pilgrims. When you go looking for Pilgrim books, you quickly learn that there aren’t that many to choose from, unless of course you are between the ages of 3 and 10. Most of the Pilgrim literary canon consists of titles for children, in which you learn that the Pilgrims dressed ridiculously, made everlasting peace with the Indians, and hunted goggle-eyed turkeys with comically enormous blunderbusses. ...more
Lauren Albert
The author is like a toddler who can not make it from one end of a room to the other because he keeps getting distracted by what he passes on the way. I can understand why Bunker would discuss the Beaver fur trade as it affected the Pilgrams, but why would this turn into a discourse on fashion and the history of the Beaver felt hat???? Why do we need to know about the dissection of King James' body? This tendency extends to his drowning the reader in detail about everything--the natural environm ...more
James Murphy
Nick Bunker tells a history of the Mayflower Pilgrims and the settlement of Massachusetts we didn't get in school. The Pilgrims weren't fundamentalists. The author makes clear there were no fundamentalists in a Europe in which religion had such a large presence. Deeply inspired by Calvinism, the British Puritans were those who felt the British Crown hadn't gone far enough in separating itself from Catholicism. The Pilgrims were marginalized and frowned-upon within English society, but the sailin ...more
The good -- Bunker does a ton of original research, using documents such as shipping records, title deeds etc. to flesh out the lives of the Pilgrims, their families, and their financial backers. Bunker examines the religious, political, and economic reasons for coming to America -- giving what seems like fair weight and respect to each.

Lots of interesting material here. We see, for example, how economically challenging living in Leiden was like for the Puritan exiles, many of whom sailed on th
Jenny Brown
I did not finish this book. I agree with the many other reviewers who found the mass of details poorly digested.

In addition, the author's massive collection of historical trivia did not encourage me to trust him because when he ventured into areas where I know something about what he was writing about, his facts were often off.

For example, the map he uses to display Indian hunting territories in the 1600s features a large man-made lake created in the 1930s. His long, mostly irrelevant discours
Louise Leetch
History, we know, is not an isolated story. It’s affected by an amalgam of social, economic, political, and religious events even the smallest of which can change the world. Take the Stewart kings of England and their love of fashionable beaver hats. Who would think a couple foppish rakes could change the history of the world? But indeed they did with the help of a couple of wars that eliminated trading sources and a small group of religious idealists seeking freedom. Making Haste From Babylon b ...more
This book will tell you more about the Pilgrims than you could ever have imagined knowing--and in rich, beautiful prose. Nick Bunker has undertaken massive research on the English side of the Atlantic, creating a full background--sociological, economic, theological, and more--of the people whom we have known much better from the accounts of their voyage to Massachusetts and what happened once they got here. But Bunker locates them as well in the culture of Elizabethan and Jacobean England in way ...more
This is fine.

/end review

Oh that's not going to cut it, will it? The religious upheaval in England (and Europe to be fair) during the 1600s has always held my interest. Not so much the pilgrims, but more the great changes and the "oh, crud, that king/head thing took it a bit too far, didn't it?" realization. Then you have the Glorious Revolution. It's all a bit of a romp.

This book isn't a romp.

There is a lot of great information in this books. Amazing amounts. Interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it
Edgar Raines
Making Haste from Babylon is obviously a labor of love, researched over many years, written in a style that at its best achieves the status of a prose poem. Throughout the author tries to understand how the peoples of the 17th Century looked at things. Given the availability of sources he does a better job of understanding 17th Century Englishmen than the Abenaki, but what is available allows him to sketch at least in part the Abenaki world view. Clausewitz one observed (I paraphrase) that in wa ...more
Robert Morris
An interesting book. Bunker convincingly makes the case that our picture of the Puritans needs to be revised, but fails to produce the book that does it. He has clearly done a ton of investigating. If the research is half as innovative as he keeps telling us it is, then he has done the field a service with this book. It added to my knowledge enormously, which wins it three stars.

The problem with the book is that he is never sure what he wants it to be. Is he telling a story? Is he critiqueing t
Martin Hogan
Insightful, to say the least. This will take you on a vast journey into the bowels of Mayflower history like no other volume. Pair this with Philbrick's "Mayflower" (a more linear volume). It will be like jumping in Lake Superior in the Keweenaw; the intense cold will wake up those senses and then marvel at the cleanliness.
I like anything about pilgrims so I was predisposed to enjoy this, but it's very rambley. Lots of cool facts but the poor author cannot tell you anything without distracting himself - and you the reader - with something else.

You will learn much about the beaver, though.
This is the only book I've read about the pilgrims which is convincing about their very mindset. I loved the integration of William Bradford's own writings with the books in his library. Fascinating.
Wow! Good History makes you see familiar stories in a new light. this book is very good and very rich in detail. It puts the Pilgrims in their world context, not just in America. Highly recommended.
Gayla Bassham
Interesting but oddly organized. I felt like it kept switching back and forth between topics and I kept getting lost. Possibly this had to do with my attention span more than anything else.
Splendid research, would prefer a tidier presentation, too many starts and stops in new places, an overflow of names and stories.
ej cullen
This book, while poetic and informative, jumps all over the place like a kangaroo with a hotfoot.
Incredible research, but at too many points it seemed just too much!
Nick Bunker largely succeeds in his intention "to go backward, sideways, and around and beneath the accepted narratives of migration." He is a new historicist in so far as he chooses to go to great lengths to uncover contributing factors in the so-called "Pilgrim" migration (the term "Pilgrim" referring to the Mayflower settlers did not come into vogue until the 19th century, a fact he omits as he omits too many other details which anyone familiar with the story knows or would like to know). I d ...more
Phyllis Harrison
Sep 13, 2010 Phyllis Harrison rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians, New Englanders, lovers of American history
What can prevent you from getting the sleep you need (and want) and keep you up until the early hours of the morning?
The answer is either fear of nightmares or reading Making Haste from Babylon by Nick Bunker.
Whether it is explaining in a clear and concise summary the dual and very different vantage points and roles of Squanto versus Samoset (I never knew the origin of Samoset’s name although I should have guessed!), the role that maps, geography and topography played in history (accompanied by
I enjoyed this book very much. We owe the author thanks for turning up quite a bit of new material, and giving us a fuller context for the Pilgrims than any other book has done. In particular, the sections on their backgrounds and origins were good, as was the coverage of their dismal time in Leiden. It will also come as news to many American readers that the planting of the New Plymouth colony was as much a business venture as a religious refuge.
All that being said, I thought the book was oddly
Christopher Fox
There is an incredible wealth of information in this book, so much so that the story of the Pilgrims sometimes gets a little lost in the mass of detail that Bunker presents. To be fair, the subtitle does include "their world" and while fascinating, the spin-offs from the main story leave one gasping for a sense of direction. For instance, talking about a certain parson the author will veer off into a detailed discussion of the changing role of the position, then further into the state of the sta ...more
Katherine Kirkpatrick
This is a very thoughtful history. From his treatment of landscape to previously unexamined documents to the viewpoints of the various peoples who enter into this story, the author seems to continuously ask his readers to slow down and think more deeply about the causes and effects of the events he describes. He doesn't go in for the seemingly ubiquitous demonization of one group or another that seems to be the norm these days, either, but treats his subjects with a fairness I really appreciated ...more
Candy Glade
The author wove many seemingly unrelated details together to create a fascinating look at the journey of the Pilgrims. He gives important historical background that illuminates the reasons the Puritans left England. Every page contains stories that made me realize how long and hard the fight was to establish this new country, and how perseverance and hard work were hallmarks of those who made it work.
Matthew Griffiths
An interesting story that gets lost in reams and reams of detail that don't really fit the narrative. Granted, some parts of this book were excellent, I particularly enjoyed the segments that discussed the relationship between the growing trade in beaver fur and the success of the Pilgrim colonies as the author worked these into the story well but the endless descriptions of English farmland got to be very tiring very quickly. So many superfluous details are added in here that upon finishing I'm ...more
I found the first third admirable in its painstakingness, but a bit soporific. And throughout, it was hard for me to keep all those Pilgrims, Separatists and Puritans straight (John, Robert, Thomas, John, Robert, Thomas, etc etc), which made it periodically a bit of a slog. Somewhere around King James' entrails, however, I began to be more drawn in to this excellent exploration of the milieu in which men (and really, Bunker only seems to be interested in men!) came to settle New England. His ent ...more
This work does a great job getting the reader into the minds of the people of the time and encouraging one to reconsider what they think they know about the people who brought us Thanksgiving. Of great interest to me, the era's political-religious divisions are well explained, including splitting Separatists/Pilgrims from the Puritans of Boston, Anglicans like the King, Catholics, and others. However, it is a difficult read. It is not chronological and often dives deep into extraneous topics of ...more
Lee Manning
This is a somewhat different look at the era of English and (to a lesser extent) American history as they relate to the years leading up to the voyage of the Mayflower and beyond, into the stable period of this early colonization effort in the late 1620s.

Bunker provides incredibly well-researched glimpses into the people and places from which the Massachusetts colonization arose, touching on the economics, geography, and personal character traits that form the background of this world-altering e
Brianna DuMont
Stars for sheer amount of research involved, however organization is severely lacking and tricky to overcome. Also, some sound editing was needed--not all of that research had to make it in the book.
Paul Heidebrecht
Incredible historical research and a compelling narrative of the Mayflower Pilgrims--Puritans to be more precise, Separatists to be even more precise. So much we did not know about these people and where they came from and why they crossed the Atlantic to settle in New England. Hard not to admire these people even as you appreciate the complexity of their choices. Bunker is not a critic or a fan of the Puritans but his account demonstrates enormous respect and a desire for looking at all angles.
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