Why Did the Pilgrims come to the New World?: And Other Questions about the Plymouth Colony
By: Laura Hamilton Waxman
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2010
In 17th century England there was little room for religious freedom. The only accepted church was the Church of England or the Anglican Church, the only “official church.” There were those dissenters, however, who didn’t quite see eye to eye with the king and wanted reform. Some Anglicans, who were dubbed Puritans, “wanted to remain members of the church. But they also wanted to purify the church of practices and beliefs they disliked.” Still others, who were in total disagreement with church ideology and practice, “separated from the church completely.” They were called “Separatists.” In 1606 King James declared, “I will make them conform, or I will harry [harrass] them out of the land!” Rather than risk the wrath of the king, many decided to flee the country.
Many were caught trying to leave for Holland, but eventually most of the dissenters made it to Amsterdam. They were able to practice their religion freely and openly, but when war with Spain appeared to be imminent, they decided to move on once again. Preparations, which took two years, were made to head to the New World. Miles Standish was hired to “defend them in their new colony” and they took a loan out with the Merchant Adventurers for a “land patent” in “a section of land in England’s Virginia Territory.” Fifty-seven Pilgrims boarded the Speedwell, a ship headed to England to meet up with the Mayflower. Many of the people who would join them were called Strangers, a group of people who “had been sent by the Merchant Adventurers to help make the colony a success.”
The Speedwell soon floundered and on September 6, 1620, 102 people left England for the New World in hopes of religious freedom, or, in the case of the Strangers, “a chance at a new life.” With Captain Christopher Jones at the helm, their journey had begun. In this book you will learn about the difficult voyage, how tempers flared, how long it took before they spotted land, why they were unable to settle in the Virginia Territory, you’ll learn about the Mayflower Compact, how they felt about the Native American people, their encounters with them, how they set up their colony, how many people perished during the winter, you’ll meet Samoset, an Abenaki from Maine, Massaoit’s son, Metacom (King Philip), and you will learn many other interesting facts about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony.
There are many interesting facts in this book that go beyond the standard story of the Pilgrims landing and their Thanksgiving with the Indians. For example, the information about the Strangers has not always been mentioned in historical recreation of the story in children’s books. The retelling of the story is very well done and should be of high interest to the young reader. Difficult words or terminology are boxed and defined in a sidebar for easy access and understanding. There are numerous information sidebars scattered throughout the book, photographs, and art reproductions from such renown artists as Adam van Breen and N. C. Wyeth. In the back of the book is a writing activity, a detailed timeline, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an excellent overview of the Pilgrims, their dangerous voyage to the New World, and their settlement at Plymouth Colony.