The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America by Rebecca Fraser

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

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...

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

  • 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.

  • Mariann

    I 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. I 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.

    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.

  • Kristine

    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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Camille

    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

    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

    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 (

    – 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

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  • 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.

  • Socraticgadfly

    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

    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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

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