The best books to reveal the truth about the Pilgrims

Craig Lancto Author Of All Is Still And Quiet: The 1704 Attack on Deerfield in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay
By Craig Lancto

Who am I?

In researching the next book in my Kindred Spirit series I intended to tell the story of the “Angel of Hadley,” which occurred in my hometown. As I researched the topic, I fell into more, and more convoluted rabbit holes. For example, the Indian who led King Philip's War was Metacom, son of the great sachem Massasoit who signed the mutual defense treaty with Governor Carver of Plymouth Plantation when they first met in 1621. The rapid descent from 40 years of peace into the proportionally bloodiest war to take place in what is now America, was spellbinding. And my research continues.


I wrote...

All Is Still And Quiet: The 1704 Attack on Deerfield in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay

By Craig Lancto,

Book cover of All Is Still And Quiet: The 1704 Attack on Deerfield in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay

What is my book about?

On February 29, 1704, during Queen Anne's War, about 150 Mohawks from New France (Canada) and their allies joined with 50 French soldiers in launching a pre-dawn attack on the Deerfield settlement at the northwest frontier of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. Forty-eight villagers were killed in the raid and 109 captives were taken for ransom or prisoner exchange and forced to march about 300 miles to Quebec.

Using journals, letters, and books by the erstwhile captives and other sources, this account relates actual events, focusing on the family of the Rev. Mr. John Williams, pastor and community leader.

The books I picked & why

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Of Plymouth Plantation

By William Bradford,

Book cover of Of Plymouth Plantation

Why this book?

The best source of information about the Pilgrim journey from their origin as Puritan/Dissenters in Scrooby, England. Bradford, who would serve multiple terms as governor of Plymouth Plantation, gives the lie to many of our commonly held beliefs about the Pilgrims and their experiences fleeing England, living in Holland, and coming to New England. He is detailed, candid, and very readable. Seeing the story from his first-person point of view helped me to see the Pilgrims as flawed individuals, whether appropriating a tribe's entire cache of seed corn on their first day on Cape Cod, Bradford's being upended in a snare set to trap animals, or their first Indian guest entering the settlement and asking for beer, it is not, ironically, the traditional Pilgrim story.

Of Plymouth Plantation

By William Bradford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Of Plymouth Plantation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Saints and Strangers

By George F. Willison,

Book cover of Saints and Strangers

Why this book?

Historian George Willison has published an account of the Pilgrims, who called themselves Saints (or Saincts) and the Strangers, or non-Puritan workmen who filled out their company, in a conversational style that sets the record straight on many of the Pilgrim “facts” we always have accepted. For example, not only is there no evidence that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, no one even suggested the idea until the son of a colonist who arrived several years after the original Pilgrims, mentioned it in passing when he was in his 90s. Willison's narrative has the quality of listening to Grandpa telling stories from his childhood and wonderfully complements primary documents. 

Saints and Strangers

By George F. Willison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Saints and Strangers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving

By David Silverman,

Book cover of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving

Why this book?

Historian Daniel Silverman tells the story of the Pilgrims amid recounting the experience of the Massasoit's Wampanoags who signed a defense treaty with Plymouth Governor John Carver that endured throughout the great chief's lifetime, about 40 more years. For me, one of the more telling vignettes in his account is that of the young Indian child forced to sing “This Land is Your Land” at a school Thanksgiving celebration on land that once had belonged to his people. His subtitle, "The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled Story of Thanksgiving" is appropriate to the history he relates, if not an understatement. Silverman's book provides a compassionate view of the complex path the Native Americans had to navigate with the Europeans who were pushing them out of the land they had inhabited for more than 12,000 years.

This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving

By David Silverman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Land Is Their Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Story of America: From the Very Beginning Up to the Present

By Hendrik van Loon,

Book cover of The Story of America: From the Very Beginning Up to the Present

Why this book?

Not often does a history text make me guffaw. Hendrik van Loons writing is an exception. His scholarship is serious, his delivery casual and delightful. In 1922, Van Loon won the first Newberry Prize for his children's book, The History of Mankind.

The Story of America is not a linear history; it is more like an explanation, of putting it all together, around a campfire. Van Loon assumes the reader's familiarity with the events of history, and he makes value judgments and simplifies the complex with no loss of significance. It is more an explanation of history and motivation than a history of events.

The Story of America: From the Very Beginning Up to the Present

By Hendrik van Loon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth

By Jordan D. Fiore,

Book cover of Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth

Why this book?

Sub-titled “A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth,” this first-person account of the Pilgrims' early years includes detail not found in Bradford's account. As Winslow's purpose was to attract new immigrants to support Plymouth Plantation, he tends to paint a much rosier picture than the more straightforward Bradford. This book's advantage is that it was written contemporaneously.

Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth

By Jordan D. Fiore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mourt's Relation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


4 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the pilgrims, Massachusetts, and the Mayflower?

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