A sturdy history of an insular people that will appeal mostly to students of early American history.



A professor of religious studies argues for reinstating the Plymouth Pilgrims at the forefront of the fight for "liberty of conscience" on American soil.

Usually relegated to the margins of academic history as the "smallest, weakest, and least important of the English colonies" compared to John Winthrop's Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, notes Turner, forged the first sense of American identity and mythology in terms of a participatory political framework and fierce commitment to liberty. But what did the concept of “liberty” mean to them? Separating from what they perceived as the corruption of the Church of England—from the "bondage" to "monarchs, magistrates, bishops, or synods"—they were determined to form their own congregations and elect their own officers. They were continually hounded for these desires, especially under the new king, James VI of Scotland, who ascended to the throne in 1603 and was unsympathetic to puritanism because he associated it with "limits on royal prerogatives." Moving to the Netherlands did not prove satisfactory in the long run. Wherever they went, notes Turner, the author of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (2012), “English separatists were disunity specialists.” Making the arduous journey across the Atlantic Ocean, however, was an act of pure faith, and their “Mayflower compact” was an attempt at establishing “a civic body politic” that did not hinge on church membership. On one hand, they were able to fashion an important defense treaty with Massasoit, which benefited both the settlers and Wampanoags and established the settlers as “the foremost military power in the region.” On the other hand, church attendance was compulsory, and the colony’s leaders banished anyone who wanted to worship by other principles, such as the Quakers. Ultimately, Turner concludes, the “Colony leaders took it for granted that some groups of people were entitled to more liberties than others.” Though rather dry, the author’s study offers original scholarship that academics will appreciate.

A sturdy history of an insular people that will appeal mostly to students of early American history.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-22550-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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