A Student of History

July 4, 2006

For your Fourth of July reading…

Filed under: New books,Wars — John Maass @ 8:16 pm

George Will’s 7/4/2006 column is his take on what appears to be (as I have yet to read it) an interesting book, “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick.  Since it is a short column, I will only include a short passage, but recommend it to all.  However, I am not sure if all will draw the saqme conclusions Will does….

For your Fourth of July reading, open a mind-opening book about an immensely important American war concerning which you may know next to nothing. King Philip’s War, the central event in a bestseller that is one of this summer’s publishing surprises, left a lasting imprint on America.

Like so many authors today, Philbrick has his own website for the book, here.  An extract:

From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals in his spellbinding new book, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound.The Mayflower’s religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups—the Wampanoags, led by the charismatic and calculating chief Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall—maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England would erupt into King Philip’s War, a savagely bloody conflict that nearly wiped out English colonists and natives alike and forever altering the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them.With towering figures like William Bradford, Massosit, Squanto and the distinctly American hero Benjamin Church at the center of his narrative, Philbrick has fashioned a fresh and compelling portrait of the dawn of American history—a history dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.

Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower

What will be interesting to see iis how he differs inhis interpretation of King Philip’s War with Jill Lepore, whose book In The Name of War is a largely literary, unsatisfying cultural history with an emphasis on memory of the conflict.  It suffers from the disability non-military historians have trying to write about military events (though the reverse is often true as well.)

Will’s conclusion of Mayflower

So began the harnessing, for the general good, of the fact that human beings are moved, usually and powerfully, by self-interest. So began the unleashing of American energies through freedom — voluntarism rather than coercion. So began America.


1 Comment »

  1. You’re right, for the most part, about Lepore’s book although I found it multi-disciplinary enough to have some value to students of military history. I’ve got Philbrick on hold at my library, & hope he does a better job.

    Comment by Ralph Hitchens — July 11, 2006 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

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