In an ambitious debut, former investment banker and Financial Times writer Bunker sets out a new history of the Mayflower pilgrims.
Most stories about the settlers focus on the period after 1620, when the pilgrims first landed in the New World to found Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts. Bunker takes a distinctly wider view, with about half of the narrative concentrating solely on the Puritans’ British origins and their history in Europe before they made their fateful trip. In these early sections, the author makes convincing arguments disputing the conventional notion that the small town of Scrooby was the center of the early Puritan movement, pointing out that the movement was spread across a wide area. In a discussion of King James I of England, who actively loathed the Puritans, Bunker includes a graphic description of the monarch’s 1625 autopsy, which he uses to make a sharp point about how the king saw Puritanism as nothing more than a disease. The last part of the book deals largely with the Puritans’ life in the New World and how they managed to survive. Unsurprisingly, given his financial background, Bunker also deals with an array of economic issues—in one instance, he touches on how one Mayflower investor smuggled alum, a powder used in fabric dying, to recoup his losses—but he handles these sections with a light touch, never bogging down in statistics. Indeed, the author’s good judgment in choosing such details is the main strength of the book. Readers will be drawn into the Puritans’ early history by Bunker’s generous, accessible prose style, which is maintained even in analyses of finer points of politics, economics and religious thought.
A well-executed, comprehensive overview of some of America’s earliest settlers.