The Barbarous Years – The Original American Immigrants

Pulitzer Prize winning author Bernard Bailyn writing The Barbarous Years opens a sweeping and authoritative discourse into the  peopling of North American between 1600 and 1675.  From Jamestown, Virginia to Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who were these individuals who braved three plus months voyages on small, crowded and disease infested ships to arrive at the edge of the American wilderness? You will learn not only who they were but why some succeeded while others were destined to fail.


No one needs tout Bailey’s credentials as historian and researcher. He is brilliant. However, what is most remarkable is his ability to keep the subject flowing, fascinating and understandable for the lay reader. Bailyn delivers in brilliant digital display the complexity and challenges of the people responsible for the early settlement of North America.

Think of this:

Why did the Jamestown fail numerous times?

Why did the Catholics establish a foothold in Maryland and the Finns and Swedes in Delaware?

Why did The Massachusetts Bay Colony begin to work from day one.? Was it religious fervor or the composition of the settlers themselves?

What role did the varied Native American tribes play in the success or failure of early settlement.

How did the Pilgrims differ from the Puritans and the aforementioned from the  Quakers and the Dutch?

Were indentured servants a precursor to slavery?

Winthrop, Bradford ,Stuyvesant, Keift, Underhill, King Philips War.

The Barbarous Years that marked the original settling of America is a most accurate title for the book. Adventurers, scoundrels, orphans, preachers, doctors, lawyers, Native Americans, politicians, merchants and perhaps most important, the hundreds of unnamed families with children who came to America during the Great Migration of the 1630s , bringing with them the skills and the ethic to permanently settle on the land.

The ” New World” was British North America during its early settlement but Bailyn clearly identifies the complexity of cultures, trade and geography that would eventually become America. The Barbarous Years is a fabulous foundation for understanding colonial America’s formative years. Also by Bernard Bailyn: The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, and Voyages to the West, which won a Pulitzer.

A wonderful different perspective of the  settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony comes from reading Anya Seton’s historical novel Winthrop Women. Search


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