The Rainborowes: Pirates, Puritans [...]; HISTORY
Byline: AMANDA FOREMAN
The Rainborowes: Pirates, Puritans And A Family's Quest For The Promised Land Adrian Tinniswood Jonathan Cape [euro]33.35 ****
It's fashionable, nowadays, to denigrate the 'Special Relationship' between the US and Britain. Critics point to the latest international crisis to show that it no longer works, or never really existed.
This is a silly approach to an essential aspect of Anglospheric history. But few have bothered to explore the 400-year-old roots that anchor the relationship.
Adrian Tinniswood has written a masterful history of Olde and New England during the turbulent years of the Civil War. The Rainborowes is, on one level, a family narrative about a clan of seafarers in the 17th Century who travelled between Massachusetts and Wapping. But he also presents a skilled case for the intertwined nature of the Anglo-American psyche.
The most famous of the Rainborowes was Colonel Thomas (inset). A successful naval captain under Charles I, and a military commander under Oliver Cromwell, he became the first British politician to articulate the principle of universal suffrage.
Thomas belonged to the Levellers, whose political demands were ahead of their time: religious toleration, equality before the law, free trade, a written constitution, and a government of and for the people. It was during a heated clash with Cromwell in late October 1647 that Thomas uttered the words that have since become the cornerstone of modern democracy: 'The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he' How Col Thomas came to be so enlightened is one of the book's central questions. …