Like its predecessor and now companion, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, this book casts a fresh eye on the Pilgrimsspecifically, the voyage of the Mayflower, from beginning to end.
High marks go to the National Geographic Society and to Plimoth Plantation for building a replica of the famous shipthis one called Mayflower IIand replicating the voyage, complete with time and supplies available back then.
The result is an entertaining and often enlightening re-examination of the Pilgrims' voyage to freedom.
Time and again, popular myths are exploded through painstaking research:
The ship wasn't full of Pilgrims. Many on the ship were on the voyage seeking new profit or asylum in the new World.
Not all aboard even practiced the same religion. Remarkably, no faith-based arguments broke out.
The Mayflower Compact was necessary because the voyage's leaders had a contract only for Virginia, the intended landing spot but not the actual landing spot. In order to maintain order in the new home, the leaders thought it best to make everyone onboard sign what amounted to a reaffirmation of fealty to those leaders. (In other words, this document was not the foundation of American democracy.)
One of the primary motivations for the voyage was to scope out new sources of lumber, which England badly needed in order to keep on building warships to protect its vast empire.
The new colonists thought nothing of stealing and otherwise appropriating Wamapnoag goods and stores.
Also included are historical bits about how sailors navigated the dangerous waters of the 17th Century, what kinds of foods passengers ate on these voyages, and what kinds of games the children played to keep themselves occupied and out of their parents' way.
In all, this is a good book filled with magnificently realistic images. If nothing else, the reader comes away with a fuller picture of the Mayflower and more questions to ask when studying this period of history further.