I have been re-reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower. I previously blogged about it here. The Pilgrims’ story is, I realise, a fascinating collection of counter-factuals and hypothetical conditionals. What if the Speedwell had not been over-masted (deliberately or otherwise)? What if the Leideners and the strangers had not been obliged to share the Mayflower’s cramped spaces? Would the Mayflower Compact have been signed otherwise? And if the Speedwell had not sprung leaks would the Pilgrims have ended up at the mouth of the Hudson, as they had initially intended, rather than at Plymouth? Philbrick is good on how the Pilgrims soon compromised their morals in the face of a fierce New England winter, stealing native grain and desecrating native graves in their search for sustenance. And he paints an evocative picture of the ghostland that the East coast had become, as bubonic plague wiped out the civilisations that produced such wonders as the cloak in my illustration, now on display in the Ashmolean Museum. I blogged about it here.