Monday, November 18, 2013

The First Thanksgiving by Nathaniel Philbrick

The First ThanksgivingThanksgiving is just around the corner and I am delighted to be able to suggest something that will give you fascinating tidbits of U.S. history to talk about with your relatives over turkey. It is a short (!) but juicy monograph on the Pilgrim's first year that leaves you wanting to know more. Living in New England myself, I was astounded to hear about the cougars...I now hear they are back!

The historian Nathaniel Philbrick won the National Book Award in the year 2000 for his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, and years later he won the 2007 Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfiction for Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. Penguin has now issued a 50-page excerpt from that later book entitled The First Thanksgiving that narrows the larger story to the first year the Pilgrims stole corn stored by a tribe of Indians on Cape Cod before landing in December 1620 in Plymouth Bay. They chose a place to live, which happened to be the same location an earlier settlement had died of disease leaving human skulls above ground for those after them to find. Philbrick reminds us of the cougars once native to New England and the long history of attempted settlements and the skeptical Indian tribes, some of whom had English speakers who had travelled to Europe.

This remarkable short monograph describes a discreet period of time that will whet your appetite for more history. In his preface, Philbrick reminds us that the peace that graced the Pilgrims first years deteriorated into some of the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history in the time of those first Pilgrim's children. That fighting would be called King Philip's War.

This book is available only as an ebook and is for sale for a tiny fee in the usual places, e.g., Amazon, B&N. I think it would make a great Thanksgiving gift for history-minded hosts or hostesses with ereaders. I read a copy obtained through Netgalley.

By the way, Philbrick suggests that venison may have been the main meal on Thanksgiving, though migrating fowl and fish were probably also on the menu.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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