Fraser (The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present, 2005, etc.) personalizes the legend of the Pilgrims by focusing on Edward Winslow and family and their voyage from England to Holland to Plymouth.
In the early 1600s, it was no longer peaceful in Holland. Rather than return to England, Charles I sent the Pilgrims to America to get them out of his hair and to create a bulwark against Catholic Spain. Edward was an enthusiastic, impulsive man, a leader who was influenced throughout his life by a series of significant colleagues, William Bradford especially. Arriving on the Mayflower, 41 adult men signed a compact creating the Plymouth Colony, “the first experiment in consensual government in Western history between individuals with one another, and not with a monarch.” Encountering the Massasoit peoples, the pilgrims were initially afraid but then grateful, as the natives saved them in their first desperate winter. The colonists bought furs and gave strength and backing to the smallpox-depleted Wampanoag tribe. Fraser’s smooth storytelling provides a revealing look into the development of the colony, the rise of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and the different outlooks on the community and the lure of land. The Massasoit relied on Edward to act as middleman as other tribes feared trading with whites. As the population grew, the inevitable troublemakers appeared, including Anne Hutchinson and Uncas, the leader of the Mohegan. Edward fought in the Pequot War, a small conflict that eventually cost the Indians’ trust and led to King Philip’s devastating war. Edward also traveled to England as the colony’s representative and eventually served on a number of Cromwell’s commissions. He was truly a founding father, dealing with every aspect of life in the colony, always showing his spirit and how he “liked fighting for a cause.”
The story of the Winslows is an effective way to experience the emotions and fears of the small band who dauntlessly sailed off to the New World.