Frank Bremer's outstanding new book, One Small Candle: The Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England (Oxford UP, 2020), describes the fortunes of the congregation of pilgrims that settled at Plymouth, whose distinctive religious practices did so much to shape what became known as the New England Way. Bremer's account shows how the congregation formed, explains why it developed such a distinctive focus on lay ministry, including the space that it offered to women to develop a public voice. Bremer shows how in its early years the Plymouth colony developed a distinctive social theory, out of which there emerged cooperative ventures in what might be described as health insurance and other communal innovations. The Plymouth pilgrims worked cooperatively with local native populations - but these relationships were increasingly strained as immigration continued and the struggle for resources increased. One Small Candle will rank as one of the finest contributions to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival in New England of the Mayflower.
Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast.