An intimate look inside Plymouth Plantation that goes beyond familiar founding myths to portray real life in the settlement—the hard work, small joys, and deep connections to others beyond the shores of Cape Cod Bay.
The English settlement at Plymouth has usually been seen in isolation. Indeed, the colonists gain our admiration in part because we envision them arriving on a desolate, frozen shore, far from assistance and forced to endure a deadly first winter alone. Yet Plymouth was, from its first year, a place connected to other places. Going beyond the tales we learned from schoolbooks, Carla Gardina Pestana offers an illuminating account of life in Plymouth Plantation.
The colony was embedded in a network of trade and sociability. The Wampanoag, whose abandoned village the new arrivals used for their first settlement, were the first among many people the English encountered and upon whom they came to rely. The colonists interacted with fishermen, merchants, investors, and numerous others who passed through the region. Plymouth was thereby linked to England, Europe, the Caribbean, Virginia, the American interior, and the coastal ports of West Africa. Pestana also draws out many colorful stories—of stolen red stockings, a teenager playing with gunpowder aboard ship, the gift of a chicken hurried through the woods to a sickbed. These moments speak intimately of the early North American experience beyond familiar events like the first Thanksgiving.
On the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing and the establishment of the settlement, The World of Plymouth Plantation recovers the sense of real life there and sets the colony properly within global history.
Thanksgiving, Squanto, the Mayflower, and its compact—we all know the Pilgrims’ story, or we think we do. In this succinct, elegantly written book, Pestana introduces readers to the reality behind the myth. The World of Plymouth Plantation is about mothers as well as fathers, about a place where Native Americans were sometimes but not always friends, and where the rest of the world was never far away.
Pestana has solved the conundrum of how to write about the Pilgrims and Plymouth. Employing a variety of inventive lenses, she treats Plymouth Plantation as a colony among colonies, interconnected with other ventures and with all kinds of Atlantic enterprises. The World of Plymouth Plantation is a model of how to write history and a must-read for anyone interested in early America.
Four centuries on, Plymouth Colony still fascinates those in search of origin stories for the United States. For better or worse, patterns of English–Native relations, of religious zeal, of political democracy, and perhaps even of national independence all have been traced to a small band of seemingly extraordinary migrants who debarked in 1620. Yet, in this concise but learned book, Pestana shows just how ordinary those migrants were in the broader Atlantic context of the seventeenth century. That very ordinariness makes Plymouth matter more, rather than less, for our understanding of the nation’s past.
The story we all thought we knew is, in Pestana’s expert hands, transformed. Based on her meticulous excavation and skillful interpretation of the records generated by early settlers, The World of Plymouth Plantation takes us beyond the Mayflower, the rock, and the shared meal with natives to a place where real people lived and worked, experienced joy and sorrow, and connected with the world beyond the colony.
In this compulsively readable book, Pestana breathes new life into Plymouth Plantation, too often imagined as an isolated and static place frozen in time. She demonstrates that the English men and women who occupied Plymouth lived in a complex world that defied Pilgrim stereotypes. Addressing topics that range from God and gender to guns and stockings, Pestana demonstrates that Plymouth, far from being an isolated incubator of American values, was embedded in transatlantic networks and entangled in complex webs of meaning all its own.
Illuminating…Adds depth to many founding legends of American culture…Pestana brings the early decades of the colony to rich and nuanced life.
Explores Plymouth’s grip on the American historical imagination.
An impressive achievement…There’s virtually no tidbit that Pestana overlooks; giving fresh exposure to such details in different settings exposes a more complex, more alien, yet more recognizable Plymouth than many of us have seen before…Succinctly and ably does so much to shake up, refresh, and reengage a realer Plymouth Plantation…It is especially welcome during this quadricentenary observance of the Mayflower arrival.
- 248 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
From this author
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