The best books about Plymouth Colony

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Plymouth Colony and why they recommend each book.

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Pilgrim Voices

By Connie Roop (editor), Peter Roop (editor), Shelley Pritchett (illustrator)

Book cover of Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World

Pilgrim Voices provides a fascinating first-hand description of pilgrims’ lives told through actual diaries and journals. Reading some of these 400-year-old accounts inspired me to visit the recreated 17th-century village of Plymouth Colony to gain a better sense of the environment as it once was in its wild and untamed state, along with the living conditions, customs, foods, and clothing of some of America’s first European settlers in the early 1600s.


Who am I?

Greg Shed is a self-taught California illustrator specializing in Americana. In addition to commercial work and portraits, he has illustrated more than a dozen children’s books—several of which are about American history. A dedicated researcher, Greg has traveled from the Plymouth colony to the American prairie in search of authenticity and details. He has consulted with Native American craftsmen on the manufacture of native period attire. He is known for capturing golden light in his paintings, which often depict Native American cultures, wildlife, and landscapes.


I illustrated...

Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

By Joseph Bruchac, Greg Shed (illustrator),

Book cover of Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

What is my book about?

It has a deep and thoughtful understanding of Native American traditions through the almost mythical life of Tecumseh from the Shawnee Nation. With a colorful and descriptive view of language as if a Native American is speaking to the reader.

Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647

By William Bradford,

Book cover of Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647

With an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison, this is the definitive edition of an American classic. In it, the printed text of Bradford’s remarkable history of the colony that he governed for many years is compared with the original manuscript, presenting his text in a contemporary, readable form. This wonderful story of the early years of the colony told in Bradford’s own words and illuminated with his personality is a must-read for anyone interested in colonial Plymouth. 


Who am I?

Growing up in Plymouth, MA, I was steeped in the history of the Pilgrims, eventually working as a tour guide at Plimoth-Patuxet.  After I retired as professor emerita from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I wrote and published a series of mysteries. That experience and my New England background buoyed my confidence that I could write about a Pilgrim woman, keeping true to the history of the Plimoth Colony. The story of Mary Allerton Cushman’s life was the result. It was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize. 


I wrote...

The Last Pilgrim

By Noelle A. Granger,

Book cover of The Last Pilgrim

What is my book about?

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to it becoming part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival - the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.

Child Life in Colonial Times

By Alice Morse Earle,

Book cover of Child Life in Colonial Times

Children of the 17th and 18th centuries were raised far more strictly than today. In the 17th century, initially without schools, they would likely be uneducated. Encouraged to walk as soon as possible, children would be incorporated into the work of the family at an early age, to ensure the survival of the community. Alice Morse Earl conducted years of research, based on letters, official records, diaries, and other accounts to create and detailed portrait of a child’s world of that time. For me, it answered questions, such as: Did the children work? How were they educated? How did parents teach respect, manners, and religion? How were children disciplined? Were children allowed to play and what toys or games did they have? I found her book to be enormously helpful in creating the life of Mary Allerton as a child in the Plymouth Colony and the home life of the…


Who am I?

Growing up in Plymouth, MA, I was steeped in the history of the Pilgrims, eventually working as a tour guide at Plimoth-Patuxet.  After I retired as professor emerita from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I wrote and published a series of mysteries. That experience and my New England background buoyed my confidence that I could write about a Pilgrim woman, keeping true to the history of the Plimoth Colony. The story of Mary Allerton Cushman’s life was the result. It was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize. 


I wrote...

The Last Pilgrim

By Noelle A. Granger,

Book cover of The Last Pilgrim

What is my book about?

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to it becoming part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival - the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.

Plymouth Colony

By Eugene Aubrey Stratton,

Book cover of Plymouth Colony: Its History & People, 1620-1691

Former Historian General of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, Stratton writes a complete treatment of the history and genealogy of the Plymouth Colony. While the book contains verbatim transcriptions of important documents and an annotated bibliography, which are manna to the writer of historical fiction, it also has informative chapters on law and order, inheritance, morality and sex, everyday life and manners, freemen and servants, and the diaspora of Pilgrim families to other towns in the colony. Thus, along with other books listed here, the research done by the author helped me to create the real world of the Plymouth Colony and allowed me to reinforce the concept that the Pilgrims were not so different from their millions of descendants four centuries later.


Who am I?

Growing up in Plymouth, MA, I was steeped in the history of the Pilgrims, eventually working as a tour guide at Plimoth-Patuxet.  After I retired as professor emerita from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I wrote and published a series of mysteries. That experience and my New England background buoyed my confidence that I could write about a Pilgrim woman, keeping true to the history of the Plimoth Colony. The story of Mary Allerton Cushman’s life was the result. It was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize. 


I wrote...

The Last Pilgrim

By Noelle A. Granger,

Book cover of The Last Pilgrim

What is my book about?

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to it becoming part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival - the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.

Of Plymouth Plantation

By William Bradford,

Book cover of Of Plymouth Plantation

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.


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 Times of Their Lives

By James Deetz, Patricia Scott Deetz,

Book cover of The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony

James Deetz was an American anthropologist and his wife, a cultural historian. Their book was the result of studying Plymouth Colony court transcripts, wills, probate listings, and rare firsthand accounts, and then combining the facts with archeological evidence from various sites in Plymouth. This book shows a reality of the Pilgrims and Pilgrim life very different from the straight-laced, nearly mythical images from the 18th and 19th centuries: an all too human group who wore bright clothing, drank, believed in witches, had premarital sex and adulterous affairs, and committed petty and serious crimes. This book is informative and eye-opening.


Who am I?

Growing up in Plymouth, MA, I was steeped in the history of the Pilgrims, eventually working as a tour guide at Plimoth-Patuxet.  After I retired as professor emerita from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I wrote and published a series of mysteries. That experience and my New England background buoyed my confidence that I could write about a Pilgrim woman, keeping true to the history of the Plimoth Colony. The story of Mary Allerton Cushman’s life was the result. It was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize. 


I wrote...

The Last Pilgrim

By Noelle A. Granger,

Book cover of The Last Pilgrim

What is my book about?

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to it becoming part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival - the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.

One Small Candle

By Francis J. Bremer,

Book cover of One Small Candle: The Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England

Most people knows that the Pilgrims were religious, but most Americans today know very little about the beliefs and practices that animated the separatists who chose to leave England and the Dutch Republic and cross the ocean. Francis Bremer is the best possible guide to this essential part of the Pilgrim story. Bremer knows puritanism better than anyone, and he knows how to fit the Pilgrims into that larger framework. In One Small Candle (the title comes from William Bradford’s history), Bremer explains how the lay leadership of men and women was central to separatism and to the religious organization of the colony.


Who am I?

I write about the often contentious role of religion in U.S. history, from modern evangelicals to nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints to the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. In many history books these religious men and women function either as saints or sinners. Instead of resorting to caricatures, it’s worth taking the time to get to know people of the past in all the marvelous strangeness of their beliefs, practices, and habits. I am a professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.


I wrote...

They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty

By John G. Turner,

Book cover of They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty

What is my book about?

In 1620, separatists from the Church of England set sail across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower. Understanding themselves as spiritual pilgrims, they left to preserve their liberty to worship God in accordance with their understanding of the Bible.

There exists, however, an alternative, more dispiriting version of their story. In it, the Pilgrims are religious zealots who persecuted dissenters and decimated Native peoples through warfare and by stealing their land. The Pilgrims' definition of liberty was, in practice, very narrow. Drawing on original research using underutilized sources, John G. Turner moves beyond these familiar narratives in his sweeping and authoritative new history of Plymouth Colony. Instead of depicting the Pilgrims as otherworldly saints or extraordinary sinners, he tells how a variety of English settlers and Native peoples engaged in a contest for the meaning of American liberty.

Mourt's Relation

By Jordan D. Fiore,

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

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.


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.

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