They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty

Yale Univ. Apr. 2020. 464p. ISBN 9780300225501. $30. HIST
In December 1620, a band of pilgrims landed on the western shores of Cape Cod Bay, MA. Most of the 132 men, women, and children on board the Mayflower were English religious separatists. After more than two fraught-filled months at sea, they faced even greater, harrowing challenges in establishing Great Britain’s second North American colony under their own terms. These Puritans longed for a Christian society completely purged of every vestige of Catholic doctrine regarding church government, discipline, and worship. Failing to achieve these goals under the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, they sailed for America to create a social order of their own making. Turner (religious studies, George Mason Univ.; Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet) offers a complete and complex history of Plymouth Colony. This is a two-fold story of a courageous religious refugee community struggling to define the meaning of liberty and that of Machiavellian invaders who betrayed their Native American allies by stealing their land, warring against them, and treating them as subjects under their rule.
VERDICT This history of the Pilgrim’s story will be accessible to general readers and scholars alike. Using underutilized primary sources, Turner weaves a fresh history of the Plymouth Colony with an expanded cast of characters.

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