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MAYFLOWER: A Sea Change by Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe book review

  • Written by  Robin Hanbury-Tenison
  • Published in Books
MAYFLOWER: A Sea Change by Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe book review
26 Aug
2020
By Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe • £25 (hardback)

2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing from Plymouth to what is now called New England. This small ship held 102 passengers, some religious Pilgrim separatists seeking to set up a new colony, where they would be free from persecution, and some commercial prospectors chiefly interested in trade. After a terrible stormy crossing, in ghastly living conditions, with many suffering from scurvy, they arrived to find a barren, frozen land, where they struggled to survive. Eventually, they were helped out by the Wampanoag Indians, which was surprising, as previous contact with settlers had seen fatal diseases passed over. However, it all began auspiciously, with gifts being exchanged and an enlightened treaty being drawn up. A year later, they all assembled for the first Thanksgiving feast to celebrate the harvest where the English thanked the Wampanoags for teaching them how to hunt and grow food. Sadly, such an enlightened relationship was not to continue as many more ships arrived, bringing some 80,000 more Puritans who, in their thirst for land and trade, decimated the Native Indians. 

This well-presented book tells that sad story and its sequels with passion and then goes on to present today’s Plymouth in a glowing light. From the ashes of perhaps the most devastated city in Britain from the horrors of the Blitz, due to its importance as a major naval base, a diverse, proud and multi-faceted new community has grown. While celebrating the ongoing legacy of those who sailed in the Mayflower (nine US presidents, including Barak Obama, claim descent from them), it also brings alive the many great people and businesses associated with the city, from Francis Drake to Nancy Astor, from Dawn French to Tom Daly and from Stanley Gibbons to Plymouth Gin. It concludes with a detailed guide to all that can be enjoyed by those tempted to visit: a truly extraordinary number of theatres, art galleries, restaurants and unusual shops.

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