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The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America

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Rebecca Fraser's book about the Mayflower sheds new light on a family caught up in all the perils of crossing the ocean and settling in the wilderness. But the story did not end there. All settlers had to become linguists, traders, and explorers, and yet not forget their roots and customs from the old country. With the aid of exciting contemporary documents, Rebecca Fraser Rebecca Fraser's book about the Mayflower sheds new light on a family caught up in all the perils of crossing the ocean and settling in the wilderness. But the story did not end there. All settlers had to become linguists, traders, and explorers, and yet not forget their roots and customs from the old country. With the aid of exciting contemporary documents, Rebecca Fraser brings to life of an ordinary family, the Winslows, made less ordinary by their responses to the challenges of the New World. The very special relationship between Edward Winslow and Massassoit chief of the Wampanoags is commemorated in the first Thanksgiving. But fifty years later Edward's son Josiah was commander in chief of the New England militias against Massassoit's son in King Philip's War.Written with the pace of an epic, this is a story that is both national but intimate and human, chronicling as the Winslows made the painful decisions that ensured their survival in America.


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Rebecca Fraser's book about the Mayflower sheds new light on a family caught up in all the perils of crossing the ocean and settling in the wilderness. But the story did not end there. All settlers had to become linguists, traders, and explorers, and yet not forget their roots and customs from the old country. With the aid of exciting contemporary documents, Rebecca Fraser Rebecca Fraser's book about the Mayflower sheds new light on a family caught up in all the perils of crossing the ocean and settling in the wilderness. But the story did not end there. All settlers had to become linguists, traders, and explorers, and yet not forget their roots and customs from the old country. With the aid of exciting contemporary documents, Rebecca Fraser brings to life of an ordinary family, the Winslows, made less ordinary by their responses to the challenges of the New World. The very special relationship between Edward Winslow and Massassoit chief of the Wampanoags is commemorated in the first Thanksgiving. But fifty years later Edward's son Josiah was commander in chief of the New England militias against Massassoit's son in King Philip's War.Written with the pace of an epic, this is a story that is both national but intimate and human, chronicling as the Winslows made the painful decisions that ensured their survival in America.

30 review for The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    This book is not user friendly. It begins with the title. If you are interested in the Mayflower – you’ll have 30 pages - tops. If you are interested in the families – you better like the Winslow’s. If you buy the book for the voyage – this is the shortest shrift of all. Other readers have said they bought the book for the title and/or the promise of genealogical information. Some mention the disjointed text. Some quit. I’m with them on the title and the text, but I stayed. I liked the new topic This book is not user friendly. It begins with the title. If you are interested in the Mayflower – you’ll have 30 pages - tops. If you are interested in the families – you better like the Winslow’s. If you buy the book for the voyage – this is the shortest shrift of all. Other readers have said they bought the book for the title and/or the promise of genealogical information. Some mention the disjointed text. Some quit. I’m with them on the title and the text, but I stayed. I liked the new topics (the ones that don't make the title) and the writing got better… or maybe I got used to it. The author follows Edward Winslow from his life in England to his life among the Puritan ex-pats in Holland, to the founding and managing of Plymouth, back to England and then, death in the Caribbean. You see how the Mayflower voyage was inspired and planned. There is some detail on the two months at sea, the landing and how they lived on the Mayflower while men left it by day to build houses ashore. There is some information on the crew and “adventurers”who share the small boat with the Puritans. At page 75, the 3 highlighted topics in the title end. Author Rebecca Fraser then covers the relations with the native tribes and with England through its changing administrations. There are money problems because the colonists owe the patent’s owner. You see the tough life of subsistence agriculture and how pushing into Indian lands left the tribes with too little land for hunting. While life is hard, new settlers come and the colonies grow. Some families can afford luxury items from England. Sadly you see the second generation’s lack of respect for the good relations with Indians that their parents had built up over the years. I had read of King Philip’s war, but not about the “praying towns” and all that led up to it. There is detail to show how long, bloody and destructive it was. Edward Winslow’s son, Josiah, a community leader, like his father (who died on foreign shores) exemplifies the problems that led to war and to its prolongation. Fraser draws a direct line from the misery and loss of the war to the witch hunts that followed. The book ends with a new generation the wrangling over inheritances, mostly of land, which most likely really belongs to the Indians who have no access to the court room. The research is very good as is the interpretation of people and events. The publisher is generous with photos. The text is a problem. You often have to read back for antecedents. The order in which sentences are placed in paragraphs is jarring and the author will name a person or subject for whom you thought you missed the story only to be introduced (or not) to them or it, later on. A human proofing would have picked up words like “buy” when “but” seems right. I’d like to give this more stars, but with the misleading title and the problems with the text, I can’t go higher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    WendyB

    This book is drier than day old toast.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    I received this book through Goodreads Giveaway Program. Thank you! As a history book, it is a slow read. Your mind MUST be on what you are reading and nothing else. It gave the Pilgrims personalities. I felt like they were finally people and not just a group that did everything in one accord. I am related to a lot of these people...Brooke, Winslow, Waldegrave, Arnold, White. Thank you so much for letting me see their joys, their struggles.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    A strong start, but halfway through it feels like Fraser shifts focus away from the subject of the two main Massachusetts pilgrim colonies and wanders off into extended histories of the founding families decades, if not a century plus down the road. Her presentation of some of the first Pilgrims is probably also more benign than what is politically palatable for some. Her narrative does seem like it leans toward a feeling of "the initial Pilgrims were pretty cool and easy-going, but then they go A strong start, but halfway through it feels like Fraser shifts focus away from the subject of the two main Massachusetts pilgrim colonies and wanders off into extended histories of the founding families decades, if not a century plus down the road. Her presentation of some of the first Pilgrims is probably also more benign than what is politically palatable for some. Her narrative does seem like it leans toward a feeling of "the initial Pilgrims were pretty cool and easy-going, but then they got more radicalized and greedy and that's when things went South for the native population." It had been a long time since I'd read about the Pilgrims, so it was interesting but I think further reading will probably be necessary to get a fuller view.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    Did not finish. Read about two-thirds of the book. This is a history book, but it's history through the lens of Edward Winslow's life. I generally enjoyed the earlier section of the book which detailed the struggle of the Puritans during the early days of the Plymouth colony. But there are so many people to keep track of in this book. At some point it honestly becomes kind of ridiculous, and it feels like the book becomes so bogged down in following all of the individuals, that it fails to discu Did not finish. Read about two-thirds of the book. This is a history book, but it's history through the lens of Edward Winslow's life. I generally enjoyed the earlier section of the book which detailed the struggle of the Puritans during the early days of the Plymouth colony. But there are so many people to keep track of in this book. At some point it honestly becomes kind of ridiculous, and it feels like the book becomes so bogged down in following all of the individuals, that it fails to discuss the larger historical context in which these people live. There is plenty of interesting things to learn in this book, but it's definitely not a page turner.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ben House

    On this Thanksgiving Season in 2017, it is easy to think back to the American Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, The Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving (which really wasn’t the first–Thanksgiving started in the southern colonies). The pleasant features of the story are ingrained into our culture. Even those times when some tried to divert the message into being a feast where the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians for their help, the religious nature of the Pilgrims has not been erased from our On this Thanksgiving Season in 2017, it is easy to think back to the American Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, The Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving (which really wasn’t the first–Thanksgiving started in the southern colonies). The pleasant features of the story are ingrained into our culture. Even those times when some tried to divert the message into being a feast where the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians for their help, the religious nature of the Pilgrims has not been erased from our heritage. Each time I teach American history, I run the risk of foundering my course by getting too lost in the colonial period. 1607-1775 is a long time. Many foundational actions took place in the many (not just 13) colonies in the New World. Besides, I am a Calvinist, so there is lots of rich material regarding the theological roots of American history. Seventy-five percent or more of colonial Americans held to Reformed theology in some form or another. The Great Awakening, with its two key leaders Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, is a vital chapter in America’s history which directly impacted much that followed. I never get to adequately cover the French and Indian War, in spite of my interest in it. Of course, the landing on the harsh, rocky banks of what was called Plymouth gets notice. The Pilgrims, who are better termed Separatists, play a major role in many aspects of American history. There is the voyage itself, an incredibly risky venture based on certain convictions about church life. Then there is the Mayflower Compact, a precursor of the written constitutions that would form the governments of both colonies and states and then of the United States. Literature was birthed in part at Plymouth with William Bradford’s classic Of Plymouth Plantation. European and Indian relations would be seen in its best light with the aid given by Samoset and Squanto to the settlers. Economics was provided with the greatest example of the failure of socialism when the settlers attempted to share all things in common. The 1621 thanksgiving celebration, of course, then is re-enacted by school children even to this day. But the Mayflower and Plymouth Plantation or Colony gets a short column or a few paragraphs in our history books. (Of necessity, no history survey can do justice to specific events.) Plmouth’s few hundreds were soon overshadowed by the thousands of Puritans who settled the Boston area and other parts of what became the larger, dominant Massachusetts Bay colony. Massachusett settlers and Plymouth settlers would share and cooperate with each other for a time, but Plymouth soon became just a part of the larger, wealthier, more advanced Protestant community of Massachusetts. A new book, perfect for today, great for anytime, is titled Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America is by Rebecca Fraser. This new book is published by St. Martin’s Press and is available from all major book stores. Rebecca Fraser is the daughter of Antonia Fraser who has written quite a few works on English history. Rebecca has previously written The Brontes (about the sisters who were writers) and the very readable Story of Britain. The story of the hardy band of Pilgrims is a tale worth telling and hearing again and again. Call it audacity, pluck, courage, or even near insanity, the forces that worked in them to commit them to stepping on a west bound ship across the Atlantic were extraordinary. Sure, they survived, but as evidenced by previous ventures into the New World, such as Roanoke and Jamestown, this was a high risk venture. The mortality rates for those who came to Plymouth were exceedingly high. Fraser notes a few souls who went back to England, but the amazing story is of those who literally carved out a home in the wilderness. Of course, it helped that portions of land had already been carved, or more actually cleared, by the Indian tribes. The interactions between the Europeans and the various Indian tribes plays a large part in the developing story. From some of the early and successful interactions, relationships were often cordial and cooperative. Indian chiefs were quite shrewd in their dealings with these new inhabitants. Trade and diplomacy were both conducted to gain maximum benefits by both parties. Items such as beaver skins provided a means for the colony to thrive economically. Hachets, guns, and cloth from the Europeans were beneficial to the Indians. Sadly, the whole story is not one of two mutually prospering groups. The increasing numbers of Europeans and superior fire-power enabled them to dominate the story. There were two major wars in the region. The first was the Pequot War and the second was King Phillip’s War. While the numbers of those killed are small compared to later wars on this continent, on a per capita basis, there were real killing fields. King Phillip’s War was perhaps the best opportunity the Indian tribes ever had to drive out the English. Of course, it failed, and with it, the power base of the Indian community was forever diminished. Religion is a major focus of the book. After all, this is about the Pilgrim Fathers. Add to that, it was the century of religious wars and conflicts that consumed England and much of continental Europe during the 1600s. Furthermore, as the story of Plymouth develops, the Puritans will come to dominate the region. The American colonies were a testing ground, a melting pot, a safe zone for many religious ideas and practices that were challenging Europe and England in particular. Puritan New England (which we might better call Reformed New England since not all were Puritans) is often criticized, misunderstood, and caricatured. Until Perry Miller decided to study those dreadful Puritans, they were more an object of curiosity or distaste than a subject of study. Miller’s academic pursuit later merged with a theological reawakening of interest in Puritanism and Puritan theology. As with all of history, the simple explanations don’t explain. The Puritan society or religious foundations of New England were complicated. As Fraser emphasizes, the Mayflower settlers were people of firm, dedicated commitment to living the Christian faith in ways their separatist and Reformation theology demanded. Bradford, Brewster, Winslow, and others were the real deal. So were many of those whose theological differences confuse the outsider. By that, I mean that the Puritans, Roger Williams and his followers, the Mathers, and even the Quakers were people of conviction. Simply put, they would die for their faith commitments. At the same time, from our distant perspective, the theological worldview was flawed. The problem was not that they were trying to follow the Bible, but rather they did not follow it adequately or correctly. A recurring error of that time was interpreting bad events as judgments of God. A drought or storm, an Indian raid, an unexpected death, and other events were too readily explained as though the New Englanders could read the mind of God in them. (I do believe calamities ought to drive us to self-examination and repentance, but we cannot know God’s purpose in all such tragedies.) Then there were the outright theological failures. Most saddening was the practice of selling Indian captives into slavery. This was the common practice during King Philip’s War. War rarely brings out our better qualities, but this was quite deplorable. Later, the witchcraft frenzy and trials were another blot on New England. While there were those pastors who warned against abuses, some stupid things were allowed such as allowing for “spectral evidence” in court. This has reference to people claiming to have seen or witnessed a person doing something weird and that testimony being accepted as fact. Much of this book is centered around the Winslow family. They came on the Mayflower, became leaders in the community, and continued to be influential through the generations. They represented what was the best, most creative, and most worthy of the world that would grow out of Plymouth. Edward Winslow was a great man, but he was still just a man, a success in some areas and a failure in others. He befriended Maasassoit, chief of the Wampanoags, and he worked to make Plymouth prosperous. His son, as is often the story in history, was a man of a different generation. His faith commitment was dim compared to the father, and his actions were more of the enterprising and pragmatic American than that of the commited Pilgrim. This book is a fine story. It is history as story; therefore, it contains truth, beauty, and goodness, but also reveals falsehoods, ugliness, and evil. It is our nation’s story. We re-enact and remember only a small part, but we need to know the bigger story as well.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The genealogists in the family have traced a couple lines back to the Mayflower, so I was curious to read more about the people and their experiences. Rebecca Fraser covers more than the voyage and early settlement--she starts in Leiden and England, explaining the background of the Pilgrims and their connections and clashes with mainstream society. And once they landed in Plymouth, those connections continued to chafe. It's possible to see the roots of the American experiment--both its good qual The genealogists in the family have traced a couple lines back to the Mayflower, so I was curious to read more about the people and their experiences. Rebecca Fraser covers more than the voyage and early settlement--she starts in Leiden and England, explaining the background of the Pilgrims and their connections and clashes with mainstream society. And once they landed in Plymouth, those connections continued to chafe. It's possible to see the roots of the American experiment--both its good qualities, and its harmful ones--from the very beginning. Oh, and my ancestor? He's mentioned because he fell overboard during a storm and was rescued by only the narrowest of margins. A good reminder of the fragility of life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emmett Hoops

    This is an exceedingly interesting and engagingly written book. I was hesitant to purchase it because I thought it might be slightly fawning, as other books about the Mayflower families were. It is decidedly not fawning. The author makes clear the forces acting on each person were historically and culturally rooted. She implicitly warns us against holding the actions of the past up against the mirror of modernism, and this is enormously beneficial to the reader. It keeps us dispassionate, yet em This is an exceedingly interesting and engagingly written book. I was hesitant to purchase it because I thought it might be slightly fawning, as other books about the Mayflower families were. It is decidedly not fawning. The author makes clear the forces acting on each person were historically and culturally rooted. She implicitly warns us against holding the actions of the past up against the mirror of modernism, and this is enormously beneficial to the reader. It keeps us dispassionate, yet emotionally engaged in the story. Reading this book will enlighten you about 17th Century English settlements in New England -- and much more. It deserves a spot on your reading list.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Brooks

    The content was quite interesting, but honestly, her writing made it SO difficult to read! I don't think there was a single page where I did not see typos or an awkwardly worded sentence. Or a sentence that just did not make sense.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve Majerus-Collins

    It's surprisingly difficult to make the Pilgrims seem like real people. We know all sorts of quirky details about some of them. And we know the general thrust of their story -- the religious mania that led them first to the Netherlands and then to the New World, where they somehow picked Plymouth as the place to settle instead of, say, the infinitely better harbor just up the coast where Boston is today. We know about the cramped Mayflower, the compact they wrote, the hardships they endured, the It's surprisingly difficult to make the Pilgrims seem like real people. We know all sorts of quirky details about some of them. And we know the general thrust of their story -- the religious mania that led them first to the Netherlands and then to the New World, where they somehow picked Plymouth as the place to settle instead of, say, the infinitely better harbor just up the coast where Boston is today. We know about the cramped Mayflower, the compact they wrote, the hardships they endured, the Indians who saved them and, well, Thanksgiving. To give Rebecca Fraser credit, she digs deep and finds more. She makes some of these people almost human. She tells some interesting tales, some of them unfamiliar to those of us who are casually acquainted with that strange place and time. The problem isn't that she's a poor writer or bad historian. She seems to pass muster on both accounts. The thing that ditches this book as a worthy read is that so often highlights someone or something for pages on end. Then it moves on. Then it drops in casually that oh, yeah, that woman you were hearing about? She's dead now. Get enough of those moments and a book just sort of dies as well. What I came away from the volume with is the notion that it must be possible to write a stirring history of the Plymouth Colony from its origins to its demise, something focused on this decades-long saga that for all of the glory it has grabbed in the pseudo-history of our country that we all walk around with -- they did have turkey for Thanksgiving, right? To think that Peregrine White, born on the Mayflower's voyage across the sea, ultimately outlived the Plymouth Colony is to realize that it came and went in less than a lifetime, eclipsed in the end by the Massachusetts colony next door and the newcomers created in Rhode Island and Connecticut by those first settlers. White, who settled in Marshfield, has "a vigorous and of a comly Aspect to the last," as the Boston Newsletter put it in the only obituary ever written for a Pilgrim. And he died, the paper noted, "hopefully." Think of that man's life -- a childhood in the wilderness, forging communities that quickly claimed a role in international trade, passing time with friendly Native Americans and also perhaps the single ugliest, most destructive war in the nation's history: the fight-to-the-death struggle against Metacom, or King Philip, whose head wound up on a pike in Plymouth. It may have still been there when the English king revoked the Plymouth charter and the whole thing drew to a close in 1692. In any case, Nathaniel Philbrook's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War is a better book. It's the one I'd recommend, not this one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David McClendon, Sr

    We love history. We love to study genealogy. The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America by Rebecca Fraser is chock full of both. We learned so much about history that we never even knew existed from this book. Not only did we learn about early America, we also learned about England, the Netherlands, and a little about Scotland as well. It is very well-written and extremely well-researched. We give it all five stars. This is one of those history books you just don’t want We love history. We love to study genealogy. The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America by Rebecca Fraser is chock full of both. We learned so much about history that we never even knew existed from this book. Not only did we learn about early America, we also learned about England, the Netherlands, and a little about Scotland as well. It is very well-written and extremely well-researched. We give it all five stars. This is one of those history books you just don’t want to put down because, not only is it interesting history, it is very readable. We learned more at every turn of the page. We were sent a complimentary advance reading copy of this book. We are under no obligation to write any review, positive or negative. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Becky Loader

    Fraser doesn't concentrate too much time on the crossing, but instead deals mostly with the encounter with the Native Americans and the complex set of religious beliefs/values that lead to the crossing of the Atlantic.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    An odd book. First of all, it's not about the families; it focuses primarily on the Winslow family, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. The narrative is somewhat disjointed, with random facts showing up in strange places. The whole book would have benefited from a more organized outline. Also the lack of references made me unhappy as there were some things I'd have liked to learn more about. I don't think I'd pick this book as a primary source for learning about the history of the Mayflo An odd book. First of all, it's not about the families; it focuses primarily on the Winslow family, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. The narrative is somewhat disjointed, with random facts showing up in strange places. The whole book would have benefited from a more organized outline. Also the lack of references made me unhappy as there were some things I'd have liked to learn more about. I don't think I'd pick this book as a primary source for learning about the history of the Mayflower and Plimouth Colony, but if you're really a fan, you might get some new insights as to the politics and people involved.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    The Mayflower aims to tell the story of the families, focusing on the Winslows, that fled to America and founded Plymouth. That’s what the subtitle says (“The Families, the Voyage and the Founding of America”). cover122138-mediumAnd that’s what Rebecca Fraser does for the first half of the book. The first half of the book is, I believe, excellent. It is extremely detailed and everything is explained: the religious and political situation, why the Pilgrims left, how they got organised, what happen The Mayflower aims to tell the story of the families, focusing on the Winslows, that fled to America and founded Plymouth. That’s what the subtitle says (“The Families, the Voyage and the Founding of America”). cover122138-mediumAnd that’s what Rebecca Fraser does for the first half of the book. The first half of the book is, I believe, excellent. It is extremely detailed and everything is explained: the religious and political situation, why the Pilgrims left, how they got organised, what happened during the journey and how they managed once they arrived in America. It is almost day-to-day history, with details on everyday life and early 17th century ideas. I think where it got wrong is that after about the halfway mark, Fraser starts explaining what happens later when the colonies are well established. I personally grew a bit bored and skimmed most of the second half. To me, it went beyond the “Founding of America”. While it is relevant to the subject, I think it was way too much. It might just be me, though, as all the other reviews I have read about The Mayflower are 5 stars reviews. That being said, Rebecca Fraser has obviously done extensive researched and it shows. She knows what she is writing about. I am impressed at how vivid the writing is, which isn’t always the case in non-fiction. I think the book should have been a bit shorter, or maybe we should have had two books. I would have liked some illustrations as well to enliven the text. One thing I particularly appreciated was that the Native Americans were given a voice, it’s not just a one-sided story. Now, should you check this book out? Absolutely! It is a well-researched, detailed, interesting piece of history writing. Anyone interested in this time period, be in English or American, or even Native American or religious history should have a read. I will definitely look into other books by Rebecca Fraser as a few of them have caught my interest (Charlotte Brontë; The Brontës; Gender, Race and Family in Nineteenth Century America – yes, please!). ----- Thank you to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. More reviews available on my blog.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    A different perspective, but marred My own take was that this was probably a 3.5 star ... I bumped it down the half-star based on what the two reviewers with relatives of the period said on Amazon. My own take, in brief? 1. Being written as a British take offers something different from an American version. That alone is good. 2. Showing the back-and-forth between New England and England, especially during the Commonwealth is good. That said, the book never really grabbed me. On the negative side, Fra A different perspective, but marred My own take was that this was probably a 3.5 star ... I bumped it down the half-star based on what the two reviewers with relatives of the period said on Amazon. My own take, in brief? 1. Being written as a British take offers something different from an American version. That alone is good. 2. Showing the back-and-forth between New England and England, especially during the Commonwealth is good. That said, the book never really grabbed me. On the negative side, Fraser seems to try to "normalize" English relations toward the American Indians. Yes, not all Englishmen were racist. But, racism was on the rise among all Europeans at this time. Among the English, and directly relevant to the colonies? John Locke. There's also one other fairly big error (I'll take the one star reviewer on Amazon at their word on genealogy-related ones.) Fraser says the Spanish were settling LA and San Francisco at the time of Plimouth. Erm, not at all. That's only wrong by 150 years. (That's why, in turn, I'll accept claims of other errors at face value.)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim Cabaj

    Have you ever wondered what the true motivations that drove the pilgrims and others to America in the beginning? In Rebecca Frasier's well documented account of what happened that brought the Mayflower to America. You see the buildup in the eyes of Edward Winslow as an apprentice printer growing up in England and leaves to Holland to a colony of British expats in Holland there to practice the religion and faith they believe in. Again each step of the way is documented to feel as if you are there Have you ever wondered what the true motivations that drove the pilgrims and others to America in the beginning? In Rebecca Frasier's well documented account of what happened that brought the Mayflower to America. You see the buildup in the eyes of Edward Winslow as an apprentice printer growing up in England and leaves to Holland to a colony of British expats in Holland there to practice the religion and faith they believe in. Again each step of the way is documented to feel as if you are there and following the journey. Each relationship that Edwad Winslow is well noted to feel you get the understanding of being there. Each step in the voyage to the establishment in the new world presents new daily challenges. What a miracle it is that so many of us are around today, just reading about what it took to survive. The voyage itself is intense. Building of farms to feed a large group of people. Too many moments of survival guided by faith.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jean Lee

    "Personal records are few and far between about the courageous people of modest origin who founded New England...The Winslows and their friends were actors in momentous events. Settling in America and getting to know the Indians, they created a new society where they were not ruled by a monarch, and where they agreed the laws between themselves. But they also lived through the horror of Indian war, as greater numbers of Europeans eroded the trust of the early days." I thought this quote was the "Personal records are few and far between about the courageous people of modest origin who founded New England...The Winslows and their friends were actors in momentous events. Settling in America and getting to know the Indians, they created a new society where they were not ruled by a monarch, and where they agreed the laws between themselves. But they also lived through the horror of Indian war, as greater numbers of Europeans eroded the trust of the early days." I thought this quote was the best summary of the author's thesis. She didn't write the book for the descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims hoping to trace genealogical origins. The book isn’t an encyclopedic profile of all the Mayflower pilgrims who survived the trip. And the book is not just about the boat ride over (sorry to disappoint those who wanted a full-length book about the Mayflower ship and voyage). This book is actually so much more than that. It fills an order way taller than just covering the Mayflower voyage, which took about 4 months. The author covers a span of about 60 years, beginning with Edward Winslow’s join up with the puritan cause in 1617, and ending with his son’s showdown with the American Indians in 1676, in what is known today as King Philip’s War, one of the bloodiest conflicts per capita in U.S. history. Tracing how something which began so good could end so bad, was this author’s quest. In my opinion, there is no better time than now to ask that question as we commemorate 400 years since the Mayflower set sail. We seem to be facing a crisis here in America, as we don’t know whether to celebrate or to mourn. The pilgrims were a heroic and spirited people who had the daring to come across the sea; and yet, their crossing was the beginning of the extinction of another way of life (the Native American). Investigating the forces that led the colonists and the American Indians to do what they did – make peace, then war – is something which Rebecca Fraser, British historian and biographer, does very well. It’s no small feat to gather thousands of pieces of a puzzle and fit them together into a coherent, compelling, and objective picture. She is able to provide snapshots of the remarkable individuals who lived during these turbulent times while simultaneously imbedding them into the broader context of the forces at work that influenced them (e.g. major religious and political change, scientific and technological advancement, development of world trade and exploration). Yet amidst all these larger reasons, never does she forgo the very intimate and personal ones that drive people to do the things that they do. I felt that Fraser compiled her research into a fair, accurate, and detailed portrait of the Winslow family and their relationship with the Native Americans. She doesn’t romanticize, but scrutinizes every detail of Edward Winslow’s life, as well as his son, Josiah’s. And there is fair development of the Native American perspective, too. I’m amazed at how she can paint a vivid picture of a character’s motivations and feelings based on nothing more than what can be dug up about them from letters, journals, court records, wills, etc. She can imagine the personalities of people from a distance of four hundred years and she does it with proper documentation and research to back everything up with proof. Interestingly, the book was released in the UK under the title, "The Mayflower Generation: The Winslow Family and the Fight for the New World," which I think is a more accurate description of its contents. The cover of the UK version features a portrait of Edward Winslow (the one and only portrait we have of the pilgrim fathers) instead of a painting of pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock like in the American release. In a recent article in the New York Times, journalist Farah Nayeri wrote that as the United States and Britain commemorate 400 years since the Mayflower first made its crossing, "The events are more politically charged on one side of the Atlantic than the other." There’s some truth in that statement, though I don’t think there’s a political conspiracy out there to suppress an objective treatment of our early colonial history. I think it’s difficult, though, for some American readers to see the depressing, shameful bits along with the heroic ones. That being said, it’s a pity that Edward Winslow seems like the biggest unsung hero of early colonial America. He truly was a peace-loving, diplomatic, kind soul who did more to achieve human flourishing in New England than we give him credit for. He penned the earliest firsthand accounts of the pilgrim experience. He forged the way, honorably and conscientiously, in the first encounters and exchanges between the English and the Native Americans. Those unprecedented meetings resulted in friendship and peace for thirty years. His son, on the other hand, may go down in history books as snobby, self-righteous, and greedy. Though both son and father served as governors of Plymouth, King Philip’s War happened on Josiah’s clock. I can’t help but wonder if Josiah could have benefitted from his father’s tutelage more. The high society that he married into gave him concerns for affluence, status, and land acquisition that seemed to corrupt the simpler and humbler origins he came from.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cindi Stewart

    Good, but now quite what I expected. It should have been subtitled "The Founding of America, a Little bit about the Families except One, and Hardly anything about the Voyage".

  19. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway an embarrassingly long time ago. And I always intended to read it. Colonial America is, to me, completely fascinating in how it formed its identity and who all filled its land. (A number of my ancestors arrived prior to the Revolution.) This was a very interesting look at the first families to come to this country. (I use "first" loosely, as in the first established, lasting English colony. There are distinctions here.) It was more honest than I was expecting. I I won this in a Goodreads giveaway an embarrassingly long time ago. And I always intended to read it. Colonial America is, to me, completely fascinating in how it formed its identity and who all filled its land. (A number of my ancestors arrived prior to the Revolution.) This was a very interesting look at the first families to come to this country. (I use "first" loosely, as in the first established, lasting English colony. There are distinctions here.) It was more honest than I was expecting. I kind of thought this would be all patriotic rah-rah and all of that, but it's not. It points out the flaws in our heroes. It doesn't disguise the brutality toward the American Indians. Which leads me to perhaps my favorite part of this book: it doesn't just focus on the white male perspective. You also see it from the women's perspective and the American Indians'. This book takes the time to explain everyone's culture and how miscommunications (and their catastrophic consequences) occurred. It really helped form a more well-rounded picture of what happened. There are also a whole gamut of historical figures introduce (including my own Mayflower ancestors, Richard and Elizabeth Warren, as well as my Quaker ancestor, Mary Dyer) that make the story even more interesting. This book mostly follows the Winslow family, for better or worse. I got a little tired of that after a while, preferring that the narrative simply focused on the colony and the people there, but that's my preference. This was definitely worth the read, even if it sometimes got a little slow and I had to read something else for a few days.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike Shoop

    A very readable account of the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620, the families who settled in Plymouth, and the founding of New England, moving through King Philip's War in 1676 and beyond. Fraser has used reliable sources, including archives in the United States and Europe, and has distilled the information into an accessible narrative. She focuses particularly on the family of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, but she explains much about the trials and tribulations most of the colonists faced A very readable account of the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620, the families who settled in Plymouth, and the founding of New England, moving through King Philip's War in 1676 and beyond. Fraser has used reliable sources, including archives in the United States and Europe, and has distilled the information into an accessible narrative. She focuses particularly on the family of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, but she explains much about the trials and tribulations most of the colonists faced (especially the Pilgrims), how some obtained a hard-won prosperity and even rose to prominence. I appreciated her descriptions of the various Indian tribal relations, the land issues arising from the planting of each colony (New Haven, Providence, etc.), the conflicts with the English rulers, charter problems, religious issues, etc. She does a good job with keeping her myriad colonial personalities in focus and making them real: William Bradford, Squanto, Standish, John Cotton, John Winthrop, Massasoit, Anne Hutchinson, Weetamoo, Roger Williams, Penelope Pelham, Elizabeth Warren, John Robinson, etc., etc. I found this a good overview of the founding and development of New England in general, telling the story through the lives of the several generations of Winslows as they developed along with the region. An appropriate read for the 400th anniversary year of the Mayflower's landing at Plymouth.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America by Rebecca Fraser is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late November. Written as a character study within the framework of history, it almost should've been called Plymouth, due to the extent of the timeline beyond the first Mayflower voyage (1620-1704) and the outcomes of the original families. What I loved most was to learn about aspects I'd never considered before, like Sir Walter Raleigh's friend, Hakluyt the Younger, se The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America by Rebecca Fraser is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late November. Written as a character study within the framework of history, it almost should've been called Plymouth, due to the extent of the timeline beyond the first Mayflower voyage (1620-1704) and the outcomes of the original families. What I loved most was to learn about aspects I'd never considered before, like Sir Walter Raleigh's friend, Hakluyt the Younger, securing a settlement in the U.S. from James I of England for religious asylum; the Mayflower carrying 2 dogs, 102 passengers, 250 pairs of shoes, and an iron screw that had intended for use as a house jack, but would help to secure the mast after a storm; the rise and fall of wampum as a form of currency; the Thirty Years War and King Phillip's War; and that communal Puritan living really fell out of favor in comparison to living on smaller land parcels in late 1623.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    There were a lot of things in this book that I didn't know, but I've never been one for history. I found it quite interesting, but also quite wordy. There were a lot of words the author used that I didn't know what they meant, but I still got the whole gist. I didn't realize the Puritans were a break off of Protestants. It was sad that after they got to New England and settled and others came over from England to join them, but not of their faith, how intolerant they were, yet they left England There were a lot of things in this book that I didn't know, but I've never been one for history. I found it quite interesting, but also quite wordy. There were a lot of words the author used that I didn't know what they meant, but I still got the whole gist. I didn't realize the Puritans were a break off of Protestants. It was sad that after they got to New England and settled and others came over from England to join them, but not of their faith, how intolerant they were, yet they left England so they could practice their religious beliefs. There was a lot of hypocrisy in their lives. It was also interesting to see the different ways they treated the American Indians, and vice versa. How many times and how many different people have come to this, the "promised land" throughout history is quite remarkable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    Author Rebecca Fraser follows the Winslow family in detail and the other Pilgrim families in general as well as individual Indians, both friend and foe. This is NOT a genealogy book, but I used it that way, gathering tidbits about distant relatives. (Pilgrim Edward Winslow is my great-uncle of wife of 7th cousin 11x removed.) The only problem I had with this book is following some of the characters: which Elizabeth is that? And every fourth woman seems to be named Mary. Using last names more oft Author Rebecca Fraser follows the Winslow family in detail and the other Pilgrim families in general as well as individual Indians, both friend and foe. This is NOT a genealogy book, but I used it that way, gathering tidbits about distant relatives. (Pilgrim Edward Winslow is my great-uncle of wife of 7th cousin 11x removed.) The only problem I had with this book is following some of the characters: which Elizabeth is that? And every fourth woman seems to be named Mary. Using last names more often would have helped me, but understandably would have bogged down the reading for the average reader. This is a very readable book as it is. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to strengthen their understanding of the founding families and the trials they faced.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Terri Naughton

    I am (one of 35 million) Mayflower descendants and was expecting information about the Plymouth settlement. This book has that information, but focuses mostly on the life of one of the Pilgrims, Edward Winslow, and the influences he and his son Josiah had on the colonies' relationship with Native American tribes. The book concludes with the decisive "King Philip's War", which involved the Massachusetts Bay Colony more than Plymouth. (Two more of my ancestors died in these skirmishes.) Still, a v I am (one of 35 million) Mayflower descendants and was expecting information about the Plymouth settlement. This book has that information, but focuses mostly on the life of one of the Pilgrims, Edward Winslow, and the influences he and his son Josiah had on the colonies' relationship with Native American tribes. The book concludes with the decisive "King Philip's War", which involved the Massachusetts Bay Colony more than Plymouth. (Two more of my ancestors died in these skirmishes.) Still, a very interesting read about this critical period in our history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    The Mayflower is an in depth look at the history of Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims who settled it. Fraser introduces the cast of characters in a comfortable manner. So many died the first year of settle,met, it is astonishing the colony endured. The text includes copious footnotes and extensive bibliography. This book is great for historians or history enthusiasts. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mariann

    I️ won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This book is as much about the New England American Indians as it was about the Pilgrims. The author’s comprehensive research provides an intimate look at their lives as they struggled to survive in the untamed areas of the eastern shore. I️ learned so much about the beginning of the United States through her in-depth details. This is the perfect read for the month of November.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I have always had an interest in New England history, especially pre-revolution and found this book most enjoyable and fairly readable once I got into it. It seems like a balanced view and I especially appreciated the background in the Netherlands and the description of the effects of the English Civil War on England and New England. I had never connected these larger world events with the details of New England's story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Fraser starts by telling the story of the Scrooby Church and the reformists in Holland. The book describes the poor conditions of the trip on an overcrowded ship, the Mayflower. It is often interesting to note how many of the Pilgrims disappear from the historical record. Much of the book describes the interactions with the Native Americans and ultimately leads to King Philip's War, which was one of the bloodiest in American history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Richard Subber

    Fraser offers an awful lot of detail about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower voyage, and the settlement in Plymouth. Of note: not all of the Indians were friendly. By the way, she explains that not everyone on the Mayflower was a Pilgrim. If you want to learn a lot more about this event and how it played out, read this book. Read more of my book reviews and poems here: www.richardsubber.com Fraser offers an awful lot of detail about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower voyage, and the settlement in Plymouth. Of note: not all of the Indians were friendly. By the way, she explains that not everyone on the Mayflower was a Pilgrim. If you want to learn a lot more about this event and how it played out, read this book. Read more of my book reviews and poems here: www.richardsubber.com

  30. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    Well written, but wasn't what I was expecting. More about the founding of Massachusetts rather than the actual Mayflower voyage and the individual families. My ancestor was on the Mayflower and mentioned only once briefly in relation to another person. I was looking for more about the individuals that made the journey.

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