400 Years of American Politics, Starting at Plymouth

If politics begins with conflict — the jockeying for power among factions for resources, land, cultural dominance, social control, and governmental policies — one might say that American politics began in the early 1600s, with the first encounter between English settlers and Native Americans. That’s when the American Indian Wars began sporadically.

In origin-of-America mythology, Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation celebrated harvest together with Wampanaeg tribes in 1621, the first Thanksgiving. But a generation later, King Philip’s War erupted between them.¬† After nearly four years, the settlers won, and took “conscious, methodical measures to purge the land of its people.”

Nathaniel Philbrick reimagines, through meticulous historical research, how America began in “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War.” It is not a European-bad, Native American-good narrative, but quite nuanced. The real story of Plymouth Colony is “new, rich, troubling and complex. Instead of the story we already know, it becomes the story we need to know,” he writes.


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