Mayflower lives Pilgrims in a new world and the early American experience

Martyn J. Whittock

Book - 2019

Leading into the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower, Martyn Whittock examines the lives of the "saints" (members of the Separatist puritan congregations) and "strangers" (economic migrants) on the original ship. Collectively, these people would become known to history as "the Pilgrims." The story of the Pilgrims has taken on a life of its own as one of our founding national myths--their escape from religious persecution, the dangerous transatlantic journey, that brutal first winter. Throughout the narrative, we meet characters already familiar to us through Thanksgiving folklore-Captain Jones, Myles Standish, and Tisquantum (Squanto)--as well as new ones. There is Mary Chilton, the first woman to ...set foot on shore, and asylum seeker William Bradford. We meet fur trapper John Howland and little Mary More, who was brought as an indentured servant. Then there is Stephen Hopkins, who had already survived one shipwreck and was the only Mayflower passenger with any prior American experience. Decidedly un-puritanical, he kept a tavern and was frequently chastised for allowing drinking on Sundays. Epic and intimate, Mayflower Lives is a rich and rewarding book that promises to enthrall readers of early American history.--

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New York : Pegasus Books 2019.
Main Author
Martyn J. Whittock (author)
First Pegasus Books cloth edition
Physical Description
xiii, 306 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 275-295) and index.
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Master's Story: Christopher Jones, Master of the Mayflower
  • 2. The Asylum Seeker's Story: William Bradford, a Saint Fleeing Babylon
  • 3. The Mother's Story: Susanna White, Mother of the First Baby Born in New England
  • 4. The Adventurer's Story: Stephen Hopkins, Survivor of Shipwreck and with Unique New World Experience
  • 5. The Outsider's Story: Tisquantum (Squanto), Native American
  • 6. The Teenager's Story: Mary Chilton, Reputedly the First to Step onto Plymouth Rock
  • 7. The Exiled Little Servant's Story: Mary More, Unwanted Four-Year-Old
  • 8. The Man Overboard's Story: John Howland, Indentured Servant, Negotiator, and Fur Trapper
  • 9. The Preacher's Story: William Brewster, Saint, Diplomat, and Preacher
  • 10. The Pamphleteer's Story: Edward Winslow, Pilgrim Leader, Colony Agent, and Lobbyist
  • 11. The Soldier's Story: Captain Myles Standish, Commander of the Plymouth Colony Militia
  • 12. The Lovers' Story: John Alden and Priscilla Mullins
  • 13. The Rebels' Story: the Billingtons, the Soules, and Other Challenges to Morality and Order
  • 14. The American Mariner's Story: Richard More, New World Sea Captain
  • 15. Seeing the New England Forest for the Trees
  • Acknowledgments
  • Endnotes
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Some passengers aboard the Mayflower sailing from England to the New World in 1620 have become household names: Myles Standish and John Alden, for example. Others have faded into history's mists despite Pilgrim William Bradford's effort to record their difficult journey. A vision of purified religious life impelled some. Others were simply anticipating wealth from the continent's vast natural resources. Whittock here particularly focuses on the Mayflower's women and children, too often dismissed from this heavily mythologized history. Susanna White, already pregnant with the first European baby to be born in the settlement, did not expect to be at sea so late into her term. Mary Chilton, often credited as first to step ashore from the Mayflower, lost her parents soon after. Whittock also gives a portrait of Tisquantum, a Native American whose ability to converse in English astonished the newcomers. Difficult as it is to separate fact from legend, Whittock's recounting of these seminal lives makes great reading for students of early colonial American history.--Mark Knoblauch Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Historian and BBC consultant Whittock (When God Was King) pays homage to the upcoming 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's 1620 voyage with this slightly unfocused group biography. Using as a lens the lives of more than a dozen people associated with the ship, he explores religion, politics, economics, romance and family life, crime, and relations with Native Americans in the Plymouth settlement. Whittock looks at the Pilgrims' religious faith in chapters on William Bradford and William Brewster. Four-year-old Mary More's brief existence occasions a discussion of patriarchal norms: convinced that Mary and her three siblings, all under the age of eight, weren't his biological children, Samuel More sent them off to America as indentured servants-and only one survived. Chapters on Squanto-an Algonquian who was kidnapped, taken to England, and returned before the Pilgrims arrived-and militia commander Myles Standish take up the often contentious relationships between native people and the new arrivals. The book's organizing principle, one life per chapter, is dispensed with toward the end for a chapter on a love story and one on a variety of social rebels, and a somewhat simplistic conclusion lauds the colonists' devoutness and courage. Readers looking for an introduction to the Pilgrims will be adequately served; others may come away unsatisfied. Illus. Agent: Robert Dudley, Robert Dudley Agency. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

As the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's landing at Cape Cod approaches, Whittock ("Brief History" series) provides the varied stories of 14 individuals from the Mayflower and the Plymouth, MA, settlement--men, women, and children, including saints (separatist puritans) and strangers (opportunity seekers). The author outlines what is known of their lives (mingled with doses of supposition), motivations, character, and the challenges they endured before, during, and after the perilous 1620 voyage, aiming to demonstrate that these determined adventurers were motivated and sustained by intense faith and supported by impressive courage despite their unknown futures. Their mere survival is astounding (though half perished). Whittock praises them for founding a relatively inclusive community (compared with more restrictive surrounding colonies), and for their ability to forge relatively harmonious, mutually supportive relationships with neighboring Protestant settlers and Native Americans. For Whittock, the stories of these complex, interconnected lives, their successes and shortcomings, for better or worse, have imparted fundamental and enduring influence on American culture and identity. VERDICT This accessible book, among several that have demythologized Mayflower history, will appeal to readers at all levels.--Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A prolific British historian explores the makeup of the motley crewboth "Saints" (Puritan separatists) and "Strangers" (economic migrants)who ventured by sea to a foreign American land four centuries ago.Whittock (When God Was King: Rebels Radicals of the Civil War Mayflower Generation, 2018, etc.), an engaging writer who uses (sometimes overly) exclamatory prose, discusses the lives of 14 of these extraordinary characters, out of the original 130 Mayflower travelers, each in their own chapter. Throughout, the author emphasizes the stunning hardship of that first voyage as many of the English separatists, then living in the Netherlands, left everything behind to plunge into the unknown. Moreover, the crew was originally headed to Virginia on a different ship whose chronic leaking forced them to delay for months before setting out in the Mayflower, and then they were driven by severe storms back up the Atlantic coast to present-day Plymouth in November 1620. Fully half of the total died within a year in America, unable to survive the cold and meager provisions of the first winter. Whittock examines each of his chosen's backstory and upbringing in England, such as the Puritan leader William Bradford, radicalized as a teenager and one of the community in Leiden, who, with his wife, left their small son to sail to Americatragically, as his wife died shortly after arrival. The author's female stories prove especially poignante.g., Susanna White, the mother of the first child born in America; and Mary More, the orphaned, indentured 4-year-old servant and child of an adulterous father; she died shortly after arrival, probably from neglect. Whittock also includes a fantastic biography of so-called Squanto (Tisquantum), who had been kidnapped by Englishmen earlier in his life, spoke English, and was returning to his native land, which was denuded of population due to the devastation of European-spread disease.Stories full of faith and struggle lose none of their mythological quality. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.