The Pilgrims' celebration of the first Thanksgiving is a keystone of America's national and spiritual identity. But is what we've been taught about them or their harvest feast what actually happened? And if not, what difference does it make? Through the captivating story of the birth of this quintessentially American holiday, veteran historian Tracy McKenzie helps us to better understand the tale of America's originsand for Christians, to grasp the significance of this story and those like it. McKenzie avoids both idolizing and demonizing the Pilgrims, and calls us to love and learn from our flawed yet fascinating forebears. The First Thanksgiving is narrative history at its best, and promises to be an indispensable guide to the interplay of historical thinking and Christian reflection on the meaning of the past for the present.
Robert Tracy McKenzie (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is professor and chair of the department of history at Wheaton College, where he teaches courses in U.S. history, the Civil War and historiography. McKenzie is the author of two award-winning monographs: (Cambridge, 1994) and (Oxford, 2009). He has also written numerous scholarly reviews and articles including "Don't Forget the Church: Reflections on the Forgotten Dimension of Our Dual Calling" in the book (Notre Dame, 2010).
Revisionist histories were once the rage, as academics sought recognition by shaking us from deeply and dearly held perceptions of the past with revelations of novel and counter 'facts.' McKenzie works the opposite direction, resurfacing the history we have forgotten regarding one of our most treasured holidays--Thanksgiving--to help reexamine and reinforce our most important convictions regarding faith and culture.
president emeritus, Covenant Seminary
As a teacher, I am always on the lookout for brief, well-written models of historical thinking that I can immediately thrust into the hands of undergraduates. I absolutely loved the chapter on why it took Thanksgiving so long to take root. This work models historical thinking with incandescent lucidity.
Tracy McKenzie's clearly written and thoughtfully accessible book should be read with appreciation by a wide audience. It combines solid historical treatment of early American Thanksgivings with a perceptive understanding of historical method in general, and it does so by underscoring the profound Christian stake in history. It is one of those rare books that is perfectly suited for young readers but also of real value to those of us who have been around for a long time.
-Mark A. Noll,
University of Notre Dame
What makes The First Thanksgiving such a refreshing read is that McKenzie gives fewer pages to debunking folk tales about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving than he does to inspiring desire for a kind of historical inquiry that enriches human wisdom through moral and spiritual reflection. Warm-hearted, intelligent and wonderfully surprising, this book will be read and appreciated by students and scholars alike, and especially by history lovers interested in what history is and what it is good for.
McKenzie's book is both an engaging account of New England's first Thanksgiving and an excellent introduction to how to think both critically and constructively about history.
author of A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards
If you want to rediscover the 'first Thanksgiving' and learn what difference studying history makes--well, you couldn't do better than reading this one volume. By looking at the Pilgrims afresh, they come alive to remind us 'how we mean to live and do not yet live.'
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