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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  37,368 ratings  ·  2,774 reviews

This simple question launches acclaimed author Nathaniel Philbrick on an extraordinary journey to understand the truth behind our most sacred national myth: the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of Plymouth Colony. As Philbrick reveals in this electrifying new book, the story of the Pilgrims does not end with the First Thanksgiving; instead,
Hardcover, 461 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Viking (first published April 24th 2006)
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Kathy Dobronyi The Leiden Pilgrims/Separatists boarded the Speedwell and departed from Delfshaven in the Netherlands in July 1620. They met up with more Separatists…moreThe Leiden Pilgrims/Separatists boarded the Speedwell and departed from Delfshaven in the Netherlands in July 1620. They met up with more Separatists in London. In Southampton, they met the so-called Strangers, non-Pilgrims, who primarily set out on the Mayflower. Both ships set out in August 1620, but the Speedwell had to return to England because it was taking on water. Eventually, the Speedwell stayed behind, and the overloaded Mayflower set out from Plymouth, England on 6 September 1620.(less)

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I have to admit, I am one of those naïve Americans that has walked around in a bit of a fantasy land when it comes to the history of Plymouth and the Pilgrims. From grade school, I knew they desired freedom to worship their religion without persecution. In order to do so, they faced a difficult journey aboard the Mayflower prior to landing on the shores of New England. Theres a giant rock on which they must have set foot after disembarking from the ship. I know the Pilgrims struggled to survive ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
For sixty-five days, the Mayflower had blundered her way through storms and headwinds, her bottom a shaggy pelt of seaweed and barnacles, her leaky decks spewing salt water onto her passengers devoted heads. There were 102 of them 104 if you counted the two dogsMost of their provisions and equipment were beneath them in the hold, the primary storage area of the vessel. The passengers were in the betweendecks a dank, airless space about seventy-five feet long and not even high five feet high ...more
Aug 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, non-fiction, own, history
Spoiler Alert: The Mayflower lands in Plymouth! Rocks fall, all the Native Americans die.

(One of the most interesting things about Mayflower is how little of it actually dealt with the ship itself. The Pilgrims are settled (well, settled), and the Mayflower headed back to England to fall into disrepair and be sold for scrap by page 80. More than half the book is spent on King Philips War and the events that lead to it, which actually concerns the two generations after the Mayflowers passengers.)
I was enthralled with this popular history of the first 60 years of Plymouth Colony starting with the Mayflower landing in 1620. With a focus on the actions and decisions of a limited set of key individuals, Philbricks account brings to life the initial desperate events of the colony (half of the initial 102 died the first year) and the early years of dependence on the support of the Pokenoket tribe. I was enlightened to learn how decimation of Indian villages by disease and the competitive ...more
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pilgrims! Indians! War!

This is an in-depth look at the first years of the colonists in New England, and also the terrible war with the Indians that the next generation faced. Philbrick's book is called Mayflower, but only the first section of it focuses on the sea voyage and the Mayflower Compact. I was especially interested in learning what the colonists did in the early days of their settlement, how they adapted to the land and worked on their homes. However, a majority of the book is about
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys American History
Shelves: read-2008
Nathaniel Philbrick's book "Mayflower" appears at first glance to be merely a recounting of the Pilgrims journey to the New World and their miraculous survival that first winter culminating in the first Thanksgiving, that's all here, but takes up only about 80 pages of the 450+ page book. In reality, Philbrick offers the reader a complete history of Plymouth Colony from 1620-1691 (when it was merged into Massachusets Bay colony) The bulk of the narrative focuses on King Phillip's War (1675-76) ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little bit of a backstory on this, one of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower so I have a personal interest in the people who made the journey.

This book featured the well written information I have come to expect by Nathaniel Philbrick. I enjoyed reading this piece of history.

Possible spoilers......

I didnt give this book five stars, because I thought that one event was focused on too much, and not the actual people who made to journey and survived. I wont say what the event it. You have to
Doug Bradshaw
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was an experience similar to David McCullough's John Adams biography for me. It opened my eyes to a world I only had vague images about. And, I come away a little bit bitter and bothered by many different aspects of human behavior, the big one: man's intolerance of other people and their cultures and many times, their ability to blame their bad behavior on the teachings of the Bible or other beliefs in whatever God they worshipped. The Puritans wanted to get away from the religious rules ...more
Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
A must-read if you're from New England or interested in early colonial era history. Philbrick's Mayflower is written to capture your interest in a way you might not expect a book on the Pil--*YAWN!*--grims could. You'll find much more detail with way more truth in this book than anything you learned about those uptight prigs in elementary school!
"Instead of the story we already know, it becomes the story we need to know."

This story had very little to do with the voyage of the Mayflower or even the Mayflower Compact but is indeed an in depth "Story of Courage, Community, and War". Growing up I had learned the popular version of the story of the Pilgrims. They left Europe seeking religious freedom and after a difficult voyage on the Mayflower settled in New England where they struggled to survive and the Native Americans came to their
Joy D
Non-fiction about the Pilgrims, including their journey to form a religious colony in New England, the first Thanksgiving, the early years of the Plymouth settlement and how they survived, and their relationships with the Indians, which were friendly at first, but deteriorated into war in subsequent generations. The first half of the book focuses on the arrival at Plymouth, the strong personalities of the inhabitants, and establishment of the colony, and the second half follows the next ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a book that I had my eye on for some time but could never pull the trigger on buying. I saw it at the library recently and decided to check it out. I think a better title would have been: Plymouth, The Pokanokets and King Philips War. The vast majority of the book is about the Pilgrims relations with the Indians of the region and the war that eventually broke out. I didnt mind, really, as I have never really read anything at all about the early colonial days in New England. The book is ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
Thoughts soon.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone--At the Very Least, Every American
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Readling List - History
I think were it not that I've been so spoiled by some amazing history books lately, I'd be rating this five stars. It's certainly the perfect book to read right before American Thanksgiving. The Mayflower, as every American schoolchild has been taught, is the name of the ship that brought the "Pilgrims," a group of religious dissenters, to America to establish one of the earliest English colonies. While still on board the male settlers signed the "Mayflower Compact" revered as a precursor to the ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Unabridged audio book.

I read ("listened to" in this case) this over Thanksgiving a while back. It's a pretty good attempt at an even handed treatment of the subject. I find that while earlier versions of the story tend to view the Pilgrims universally as heroic (not a bad thing for young students in my view) the more recent attempts have gone the other way. There seems to be a need to see them almost as villains. They were of course, human, a mixture of good and bad. Many of the things they did
Hollywood could make a great movie out of this story. Especially Benjamin Church who, during King Philip's War, became the first quintessential American frontiersman. Miles Standish was a bully and a bore. The whole venture would have been a death sentence without the intervention of the native people (who didn't just help out of the goodness of their hearts.) Highly enlightening.
Steven Peterson
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Nathaniel Philbrick's "Mayflower" is a wonderful rendering of the founding of the Plymouth Colony and its first half century.

The book traces the founding event in 1620 to disaffection by a set of English Puritans. They moved to the Netherlands and sought to assure passage to the New World. The ship that they used for this adventure was, of course, the Mayflower.

The book traces the difficult voyage of 102 passengers over two months. Living conditions were nasty. We meet some of the central
Jun 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Interesting read, and by far the best account of the Pilgrims' ordeal that I've seen so far. The first half of the book is a real page-turner which details the pre-Mayflower days in England and Holland -the ordeal of finding financing while avoiding persecution from their mother country - and moves on to the 10-week voyage and the harrowing first winter in Plymouth. The author then skips forward about 40 years, to give his account of King Philip's war and the consequent annihilation of most of ...more
This is not a book about the crossing over on the Mayflower, although that is briefly touched on. This book describes the years leading up to the voyage and the Pilgrims first fifty-five years in America.

The first part of the book reads like fiction with passages such as this: What would have astounded a modern sensibility transported back to that Christmas Day in 1620 was the absolute quiet of the scene. Save for the gurgling of Town Brook, the lap of waves against the shore, and the wind in
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's good. Philbrick includes so much interesting information upon the physical world, beyond the historic events and people. Especially within ship voyages, as he does here with the Gulf Stream.

These people on the Mayflower were serious about their religion. And to have such faith in their God's protection! But it is nearly impossible to form the perceptions and conceptions of their reality to what they would find, IMHO. Because their entire worldview was so elementally different. Four of those
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Philbrick tells two stories, one of the Pilgrims, devout separatist Puritans who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620 seeking religious freedom and peace; another of succeeding generations with less worthy motivations. Philbrick is at his very best describing the first generation, their sacrifice and hardships, their faith and fortitude, their reliance on the help of the Indians and their striving for cooperation and peaceful coexistence. But before long their high ideals began to erode. Then in the ...more
Dec 24, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a good (though not as good as In the Heart of the Sea) yet challenging read.

Though titled after the Mayflower, this is really a story about the Pilgrims, their search for religious freedom, and their relationship with the Native Indians that culminates in a detailed account of King Philip's war.

The book is well-researched and well-written, if occasionally hard to follow; there's just a lot of info here. In addition, the narrative shifts constantly to reflect whatever references were
Oct 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Profoundly readable history of the Mayflower and the Pilgrim's Plymouth Colony settlement in the early 17th century. Much of what I was taught about this was either wrong or grossly misleading. It is astounding what the early settlers had thrown at them and managed to barely survive. Brutal weather, horrible leadership, devastating diseases, native American attacks and betrayals, and massive food shortages plagued the settlers right from the start and never let up. It's a story of perseverance ...more
I let myself get misled. I read the main title--Mayflower--and got excited. I wanted to know more about the Pilgrims, more about their spiritual/religious concerns, more about their women, more about their physical culture and then anything else Philbrick had to say. But this is not that book. Only my want of information misled me.

Philbrick has written a book that is
Well Researched
Women inclusive

I have a feeling that Philbrick did not much like this topic despite
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Beyond Turkeys, Cranberry Sauce, Tall Hats, and Buckled Shoes

Nathaniel Philbrick's remarkable "Mayflower" is everything you'd hope a history book to be: illuminating, lively, and authoritative. This was simply a terrific read, a fascinating glimpse into the events and people serving as the first bricks in our nation's foundation.

Beyond the fairytale images of "The First Thanksgiving", most basic American history skips from the Mayflower's 1620 landing in Plymouth the American Revolution,
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Big sigh of relief to have finally gotten through this.....Like a lot of other people, I imagined this book would be about the Mayflower and its passengers, and what they did when they reached America -- seeing how the title of the book is "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War." That's the book Philbrick wrote for the first 100 pages or so, but evidently, he changed his mind and decided he was going to write something else after that. It's too bad he didn't change the title while he ...more
Joshua Rigsby
Mar 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm pretty sure Philbrick didn't pick this title. Very little of this book is about the Mayflower or the first Thanksgiving, or landing at Plymouth. It's really about "King Phillip's War" a 14 month protracted and bloody conflict between English settlers and Native American tribes that took place a generation or two after the Mayflower arrived. Philbrick states that this war was the impetus for his writing and the focus of his research in the very beginning of the book. I cannot blame him for ...more
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Good research here and lots of historical facts about the Mayflower, the early days of settlement, and the increasing tensions with the native inhabitants of the New World, but the presentation was generally unimaginative. It took the form of a plodding linear trudge through time. It was at times amazing to consider what the pilgrims went through and what they put the Native Americans through, but it wasnt until the final chapter that the author pulled the pieces together and gave a narrative ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
On the positive side, I thought this book was well researched and clearly written. I also valued that this book brought to light a realistic view of how the Pilgrims approached the Native American people, land, and resources.

However, I found the book to be less about the voyage of the Mayflower and the overall life of the Pilgrims settling Plymouth Colony, and more of a factual recitation of the continuous conflict that ensued between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. The book is less like
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Philbrick was Browns first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which

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“The moment any of them gave up on the difficult work of living with their neighbors--and all of the compromise, frustration, and delay that inevitably entailed--they risked losing everything.” 11 likes
“In the end, both sides wanted what the Pilgrims had been looking for in 1620: a place unfettered by obligations to others. But from the moment Massasoit decided to become the Pilgrims’ ally, New England belonged to no single group. For peace and for survival, others must be accommodated. The moment any of them gave up on the difficult work of living with their neighbors—and all of the compromise, frustration, and delay that inevitably entailed—they risked losing everything. It was a lesson that Bradford and Massasoit had learned over the course of more than three long decades. That it could be so quickly forgotten by their children remains a lesson for us today.” 6 likes
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