Review of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nethanial Philbrick rating *****
For most people, the story of the Mayflower and the pilgrims involves some version of an initial struggle for survival that culminated in a Thanksgiving dinner. Author Nathanial Philbrick puts that convenient story to rest once and for all. There was a struggle for survival, and there was a Thanksgiving dinner, but that’s not even half the story. In its place is a story over 400 years old that has relevance today.
The stated goal of the pilgrims was to move to a location where they could practice their religion as they pleased. Starting from scratch in the New World seemed like the ideal opportunity. If only they would have planned better. The ship they chose to make the journey was inadequate; the provisions they carried were insufficient, and the timing of the trip could not have been worse. It’s no wonder then that half of the people who sailed to Plymouth didn’t survive past the first year.
The real lesson here, though, is not so much about the Pilgrims’ lack of planning, but more so about a culture clash and religious intolerance. When one race assumes superiority over another, the result is usually not beneficial for either party.
It starts fine. After some initial clashes with the Indians, both sides quickly see a benefit in working together. The relationship between the English and the native Indians works so well that there is harmony between the two groups that lasts for fifty years. The problem arises as the children of the original English and Indians mature to adulthood. As the author states in the epilogue, there came a point where each side envisioned a future that did not include the other.
A fourteen-month war between the English and the Indians left thousands dead on both sides. The Indians, however, suffered the most casualties. This story shows the damage a few radical leaders can have on society. The real winners were those who chose to work with and learn from the other.