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Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  355 ratings  ·  98 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
Hardcover, 489 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Knopf
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Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-american
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
Steve Donoghue
Even in the crowded field of Pilgrim histories, this one takes pride of place - not only for its enormous breadth of research, but also its wonderfully-done narrative, following the Puritan movement, the whole life-cycle of the Mayflower expedition, and the harrowing and fascinating personal stories of the Plymouth Colony's earliest years. A rich, meaty masterpiece of popular history. ...more
Joshua Horn
Jul 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Writing a book about the Pilgrims in the 21st century with new and groundbreaking research is difficult. So much has been said about them, and there are just not that many primary sources. But Nick Bunker has done it in striking fashion. He has unearthed a lot of original sources in archives to produce something really unique.

I wouldn't recommend this book as your first, or probably even second, book about the Pilgrims. But for people who are already familiar with the story, this is really valu
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
James Murphy
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jenny Brown
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Terence Manleigh
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent history of the voyage of the Mayflower and the early years of Plymouth Colony. Everything you always wanted to know about the "Pilgrims" and the women who loved them. (I'm kidding about that last part). ...more
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Robert Morris
Aug 06, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jessica Leight
Jan 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Despite growing up in New England, I realized I didn't actually know very much about the Pilgrims and I thought this book would be a useful introduction. I found it quite disappointing, though. It was excessively detailed and seemed to lose the forest for the trees. There were various digressions into tangentially related subjects, particularly related to the history of England at the time, and not much color about what actually happened to the pilgrims after their arrival. ...more
Brianna DuMont
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
E.J. Cullen
Aug 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This book, while poetic and informative, jumps all over the place like a kangaroo with a hotfoot.
Gayla Bassham
Jan 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
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.
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Incredible research, but at too many points it seemed just too much!
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Don't pay attention to the negative reviews saying this book is meandering and that the author can't stay on topic. The key is found in the subtitle: "The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World."

The author presumably has no interest in a play-by-play account of the Pilgrim voyage and early settlement - who among us is unfamiliar with the story? I've read Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, although I didn't think much of it at the time.

Instead Bunker tries to recreate the world(s) of the Pilgrims - t
Ted Haussman
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This was my first Nick Bunker book and what I found most impressive was the overall scholarship. The man rooted out, unearthed, and explored records, facts, and connections that rounded out recent accounts and scholarship (and often challenged them) on the Mayflower pilgrims. He does a masterful job of putting the Leiden pilgrim / Brownist / Puritan movement into the overall global events of the time. If anything, the detail, at times, became a bit overwhelming, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pers
Jason Fry
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Terrific history, wonderfully told. Bunker strips away the mythmaking and reaching forward for strained historical parallels to show the Pilgrims as they were, reaching back instead to detail their world and the forces driving them and others. The result is a wonderful deep dive into everything from Separatism and 17th-century politics to the evolving economics of the fur trade and the geography of rural England.
Louise Leetch
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
I think the best thing I can do regarding this book is to share a few reviews from other readers:

"If this book was a person, it’d be the grandpa who keeps sneaking out of the assisted-living facility to wander the streets bold and bewildered."

"Imagine a cattle stampede. Imagine those cattle spreading in every possible direction. Now imagine those cattle as facts. Bunker is the cowboy, trying to chase them down. The reader is the one getting run over."

"The author is like a toddler who can not m
Matthew Griffiths
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
May 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
If I hadn't been reading this as a part of a reading challenge, I would have returned it to the library after the first 50 pages. I'm a native New Englander, history enthusiast, and deep Anglophile. This book disappointed on all three of those fronts. Reading it felt like homework - I chose it thinking I'd learn about the Pilgrims' 'world' in Plymouth. Instead easily 80% of the book is focused elsewhere (tedious academic distinctions between different types of Protestantism, royal squabbles in E ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
I'd like this a lot better with footnotes, but as popular history, I can forgive a lot in that it keeps the settlement of New England firmly in the middle of an Atlantic economic, political and physical world in which the events of the Thirty Years War, religious policy, fashion for beaver hats and the deforestation of Northern Europe shape American history in significant and frequently entertaining ways. ...more
Martin Hogan
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
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. ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it liked it
An excellent reference on the Pilgrims, on both sides of the Atlantic - the times and events leading up to the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620 and their experiences in the region of Plymouth and the rest of New England.
Jerry Teipen
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it
If I were giving out stars for detail, this would earn an easy five. The problem is that the details are disruptive and overwhelming. The asides made it very difficult to get into the flow of the text.
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
I should find this much more interesting than I do. It's just that Puritans were kinda no fun to begin with... Am I right? Sorry, Grandpa Rogers. I jumped ship on this one. ...more
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