The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

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Sarah Vowell turns her attention to the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; she distinguishes them from the pilgrims of the Mayflower who arrived in 1620, while the former arrived in 1630 on the Arbella.  She says, “The theological differences between the Puritans on the Mayflower and Puritans on the Arbella are small; try neglible to the point of nit-picky.  I will also say that readers who squirm at microscopic theological differences might be unsuited to read a book about seventeenth century Christians, or for that matter, a newspaper.”   She reminds us we might have “a devotion to the Godfather, Part II and an equally intense disdain for the Godfather, Part III.”

These microscopic differences between John Winthrop and Roger Williams could fill multiple volumes.  And these differences caused the powers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to banish Williams into the wilderness during the winter.  He survived only by turning his charm on the Indians. 

Before they set out, a friend of their leader John Winthrop tried to dissuade him from this dangerous and foolhardy undertaking, saying that if he does make it to the new world, he will ‘live in a barbarous place where is no learning and less civility’.  Vowell continues, "Not so hard, it turns out.  Winthrop and his shipmates, and their children, and their children’s children just wrote their own books and pretty much kept their noses in them up until the day God created the Red Sox.”

While it was great fun to listen to this book, read by Sarah Vowell herself, I recommend reading it instead; it would have been useful to go back and re-read passages.  I may buy the book.

 

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