Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the Nightstand: Mayflower

With everything else going on, my reading time the last several years has been curtailed. Still, I like to read, and try to find time at the end of each day to make it through a few pages. But it takes me far longer than it used to to actually finish a book!

At the moment, I am working on Nathaniel Philbrick's "Mayflower." Not a bad book overall, but a rather misleading title. The book actually covers a much broader period than the Pilgrims settling in Plymouth, extending to explore the settlement of additional colonies, the personalities and politics involved, and ultimately King Philip's War.

And let's just say, at least according to Philbrick, things didn't go as they did as we were taught in school, or how it was portrayed by the Peanuts gang.

Not surprising, really, when you consider these are humans, after all, with all the inherent flaws despite their puritanical belief system. (And Puritans were actually not the same as Pilgrims, apparently. Still not sure I can briefly explain the difference, but they are different.) For example, Miles Standish comes off as more of a classic Napoleonic complex character rather than a heroic leader. A bit brash and impulsive, he is certainly driven to make a name for himself. And Squanto, whew. Far from the compassionate savior of the Pilgrims, he comes off as quite the conniving little bastard, playing the settlers and Indians against each other for his own political gain. I think it's only natural we romanticize our forebears, and highlighting the good in people can be inspirational, but it's also interesting to roll the curtain back a bit to take a closer look at what may be the most romanticized event in American history.

From a gaming perspective, I was hoping to be inspired to perhaps think about starting some King Philip's War gaming. Well, hoping may be too strong a word, as I certainly don't need anything else on my plate right now. And the book does present some interesting scenario opportunities, with fairly detailed descriptions of several battles following an examination of causes of the war, the "lining up of sides" as it were, etc. But for now, I think I will have to keep that project on the back burner.

All in all, while some accusations in reviews of the book being "Indians good, English bad" are warranted, it does provide a fairly thorough overview of a period I knew fairly little about in a single volume.  And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's a timely read, as well. Of course, I'll probably never be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner again without commenting on the fact that eating turkeys wasn't the only thing some of the English were doing with turkeys... And that's all I'll say about that for the moment.

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