The Rainborowes: One Family's Quest to Build a New England

Overview

The period between 1630 and 1660 was one of the most tumultuous in Western history. These three decades witnessed the birth of English America and, in the mother country, a vicious civil war that rent the very fabric of English social, political, and religious life. It was an era of death and new beginnings, and at its heart was one remarkable family: the Rainborowes.

In The Rainborowes, acclaimed historian Adrian Tinniswood tells the story of this all-but-forgotten clan for the...

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The Rainborowes: One Family's Quest to Build a New England

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Overview

The period between 1630 and 1660 was one of the most tumultuous in Western history. These three decades witnessed the birth of English America and, in the mother country, a vicious civil war that rent the very fabric of English social, political, and religious life. It was an era of death and new beginnings, and at its heart was one remarkable family: the Rainborowes.

In The Rainborowes, acclaimed historian Adrian Tinniswood tells the story of this all-but-forgotten clan for the very first time, showing how the family bridged two worlds as they struggled to build a godly community for themselves and their kin. The Rainborowes’ patriarch, William, was a shipmaster and merchant whose taste for adventure and profit drew him into the expanding transatlantic traffic between England and its colonies in the New World. Eventually two of his daughters settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, marrying into the upper echelons of New England society. Back in England, meanwhile, William Rainborowe’s sons threw themselves behind the English parliament in its rebellion against King Charles I. So, too, did many New World settlers, who returned to England to fight for the parliamentary cause. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, many of these revolutionaries quit their homeland for New England, where their dreams of liberty and equality were much closer to being realized.

Following the Rainborowes from hectic London shipyards to remote Aegean islands, from the muddy streets of Boston to the battles of the English Civil War, Tinniswood reveals the indelible marks they left on America and England—and the profound and irrevocable changes these thirty years had on the family and their fellow Englishmen in Europe and America. A feat of historical reporting, The Rainborowes spans oceans and generations to show how the American identity was forged in the crucible of England’s bloody civil war.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Times (London)
“Neither royal nor noble, [the Rainborowe family] were merchant seamen who changed history, and their stories make exciting tales that throw the political and military turmoil of the 17th century into sharp relief. We meet pirates, religious hardliners and sober thinkers from this radical dissenting family who unfailingly punched well above their weight and by sheer force of will left their mark on the era.... This absorbing book brings us as close as we can get to [Thomas Rainborowe] and to the sturdy, courageous colonists that formed his astounding views.”

Sunday Times
“[An] absorbing narrative.... Tinniswood’s exceptional account succeeds in bringing the idealistic, God-fearing and often violent Rainborowes to life, while at the same time exploring the perils involved in trying to build a new state in two very different but intimately connected societies.”

The Guardian
“Adrian Tinniswood has an eye for a good tale. In The Rainborowes he follows the lives of two generations of one family...to retell the story of one of the most remarkable and formative epochs of Anglo-American history.... The transformation of relatively humble Wapping shipwrights, mariners and merchants into colonialists, soldiers, demagogues and sectarians is remarkable and enthralling.”

The Spectator
“Adrian Tinniswood, so gifted and spirited a communicator of serious history to a wide readership, here brings a number of themes from his previous books together.... Tinniswood is ‘not even sure’ that he ‘likes’ the Rainborowes, ‘with their hard mix of puritanism and politics, their ruthless pursuit of personal profit.’ But he could hardly have done more to bring them to life or to capture their part in the convulsions of their time.”

The Telegraph
“[A] fascinating new book.... Tinniswood’s main aim here is not, in the end, to prove an abstract argument, but to tell some very good stories – something he does extremely well, with a command of atmospheric detail and a fund of human sympathy.”

The Observer
“In this well researched history of the family and their influence, Tinniswood conjures an England of holy-rolling anti-rational sectarians and Cromwellites of every stripe.... Tinniswood tells the Rainborowe story with snap and brio.... Tinniswood’s account is...thorough and elegant, as both the Civil War and the birth of the New World are filtered through the lens of a single, 17th-century family.”

Roanoke Times
“Adrian Tinniswood’s new story of William Rainborowe and his descendants gives us insight into the development of Massachusetts society in the midst of religious and political turmoil back home and provides a look at the political and economic foundation of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.... Tinniswood’s exceptional prose provides a vivid picture of village life in 17th-century Massachusetts.”

Mail on Sunday, UK
“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.”

Booklist, Starred Review
“[A] compelling narrative.... Rare historical scholarship, radiant with singular personalities aflame with world-transforming convictions.”

Kirkus
“A marvelously rendered tale of how one extended family helped shape, and was shaped by, the England and New England of the 1600s.... Tinniswood chronicles the Rainborowe family history with both the loving care of a true historian and the wit and candor of a storyteller.... An extraordinary glimpse into a pivotal epoch in Western history.”

Caleb Crain, author of Necessary Errors and American Sympathy
“The Rainborowe clan fought pirates, freed English slaves in North Africa, intermarried with the ruling family of Massachusetts, pioneered transatlantic trade, and led Parliament’s army and navy. In his lively and fluent chronicle of the family, Adrian Tinniswood shows how their short tempers, religious conviction, and passion for political equality shaped New England at its founding and remade old England during its Civil Wars.”

Peter C. Mancall, author of Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson
“Adrian Tinniswood has followed the irrepressible Rainborowes from church pews to battlefields to the decks of ships battling pirates, and here offers a compelling history of a clan at the center of much of the action that recast the English seventeenth century. This is a captivating family history with the twists and turns of a favorite novel that you don’t want to put down.”

Francis J. Bremer, author of Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, A Puritan in Three Worlds
“A lively account of an important family in the Atlantic world of the seventeenth century.”

James Horn, author of A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke
“In this fascinating story of a remarkable family, the Rainborowes and their relatives, Adrian Tinniswood presents a vivid and compelling account of the tumultuous events that swept across the English transatlantic world in the mid-17th century, transforming England and America alike. Through the lens of the Rainborowes’ changing fortunes during bloody civil war, mass migration, and social and religious upheaval, the author reminds us of the powerful ties of kinship and faith that spanned the English Atlantic, and of the intense personal struggles that helped shape old and New England in this formative period.”

Carla Gardina Pestana, Professor & Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America in the World Department of History, UCLA
“Adrian Tinniswood recounts the story of this fascinating family with verve and insight. The Rainborowes moved near the center of the circles that hoped first to create a model society in New England and then to transform old England. From the docks of Wapping to the newly settled village of Cambridge, Massachusetts, from the chambers of the Long Parliament to the streets of Doncaster where Thomas Rainborowe died, Tinniswood brings to life these godly reform-minded sailors, soldiers, and settlers.”

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-08-15
A marvelously rendered tale of how one extended family helped shape, and was shaped by, the England and New England of the 1600s. Intrepid seaman William Rainborowe was the patriarch of a family that, though not a household name, went on to have a definitive impact on the founding of Puritan New England and on the English civil war. Tinniswood (Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean, 2010, etc.) chronicles the Rainborowe family history with both the loving care of a true historian and the wit and candor of a storyteller. His work is both a contribution to historical research and a window for the public into the 17th century. William Rainborowe battled piracy around Morocco and in the British Isles while also becoming a wealthy merchant and adviser to the government in naval affairs. Members of his Puritan family would settle in the Boston area in the Great Migration of the 1630s. Some would go on to crisscross the Atlantic again in search of commercial success or in order to take part in English politics. One daughter, Martha, would become the wife of John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her brothers Thomas and William Junior were destined to be leading figures in the English civil war. In a story spanning three continents, nearly half a century and dozens of lives, Tinniswood ably keeps readers' focus. His ability to weave the Rainborowe family tale into the larger tapestry of English and New England history will be appreciated by amateur and professional historians alike. In the end, it is easy for readers to agree with the author's assessment: "The Rainborowes mattered. Not only because every life matters, but also because they were there at a moment when the world changed. And they helped it to change." An extraordinary glimpse into a pivotal epoch in Western history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465023004
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 559,568
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Adrian Tinniswood is a Visiting Fellow in Heritage at Bath Spa University and the author of many books, including Pirates of Barbary and The Verneys, which was shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction. He lives in Bath, England.

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