A great way to learn about history is to read. I just recently finished reading the book “Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick for two reasons: I wanted to learn what really happened back in 1620, and I potentially have Mayflower ancestors, so it was a way to read a little bit about my connection (he was hardly mentioned, but in the grand scheme of things, that is good).
From the opening pages of “Mayflower” I realized that Mr. Philbrick did a great deal of research on the book, the number of pages that are dedicated to the Notes section alone testify to that. The book was also not a fast read. Where many books I can read in just a few days, with all the different Indian tribes mentioned in the book from the New England area over the span of 60 years, along with all the key players, it was easy to just slow down the reading just trying to say all the names properly in my head (and who knows if I was anywhere near being correct).
The book highlighted names we were taught in history class, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, Squanto, to name a few off the top of my head. But there was so much more that I was not aware of until reading this book, things that I had read about in my genealogy groups in reference to how life in Plymouth Colony really went down as opposed to the sunshine, lollipops and rainbows we learned about in grade school, you know the tale, that Squanto showed the Pilgrims how to survive that first year and that the Pilgrims and the Indians had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast together.
Well, that’s not really what happened at all. Squanto helped, seeing as he had already been enslaved by the English and had traveled to Europe he was able to speak to the Pilgrims when they arrived in Plymouth. The Native Americans did assist in helping the Pilgrims plant their first successful harvest during their first year, and the Pilgrims did celebrate with a feast, but it wasn’t the hand in hand big dinner as we think, it was amongst themselves.
You go on to learn that agreements the original Pilgrims made with the various tribes in the New England area seemed to fade as the next generation took over. This happened on both sides, with the various Native American tribes as well as the Englishmen. They began thinking the Native Americans were evil, so much so, that they would ship them to the Caribbean and into slavery.
As a person who has been working on their genealogy, I’ll confess that I have always been relieved that I have no southern ancestors simply because I dodge the bullet of slavery. But this is no longer the case. I have no concrete proof yet. but I am fairly certain I will eventually find Mayflower lineage in my family tree. But knowing that they could still be embroiled into sending others into slavery has me quite disheartened. I know I am not responsible, but it’s not exactly the thrilling story to tell the others around the holiday table. Especially when it’s something that has been somewhat glazed over in the past 400 years of history.
Mr. Philbrick goes on to write about Prince Philip’s War which was another feature of our history I hadn’t been aware of, which has mainly been taught in the New England area of the United States.
The book really is a good and I recommend if you aren’t familiar with what is more than likely the true story of how the United States began. This book has made me want to read more about the earlier portions of our history to discover the true basis of our country.
The book is still available to be purchased on many online stores as well available in your local library.