Even though it feels like it, the presidential campaign isn’t going to last forever.  Thanksgiving is four weeks from tomorrow, believe it or not, and it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in a book about Thanksgiving in advance of the holiday.  There are many good possibilities, but with utter shamelessness I’d like to suggest my own: The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us about Loving God and Learning from History.

First Thanksgiving

The book came out in the fall of 2013 from Intervarsity Press, and it was a labor of love.  For years I had been gradually developing a new sense of vocation.  I believe that academic historians write too much for each other, leaving the public to learn about the past from pastors, talk-show hosts, rap musicians, and other public celebrities.  As a Christian historian, I have come to believe that part of my calling is to be a historian for Christians outside the Academy.  If you are a Christian who is interested in American history, I want to be in conversation with you about what it means to think Christianly and historically about the American past.  That is why I started this blog a few years back, and that is why I spent several years conducting research on the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving.

I didn’t write The First Thanksgiving primarily because I was enamored with the story and wanted to re-tell it accurately (although I hoped to do so).  Rather, it gradually dawned on me that this familiar story provided the perfect framework for exploring what it means, from a Christian perspective, to remember the past faithfully.  The story of the First Thanksgiving is central to how we, as Americans, remember our origins. The subsequent development of the Thanksgiving holiday speaks volumes about how we have defined our identity across the centuries. As Christians, our challenge is to “take every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5), including our thinking about our national heritage.  Thanksgiving is a good place to start.


  1. It’s on my list to buy for myself. Someday . . .

  2. This was an excellent book! As a primary school (otherwise known as elementary school) Church History teacher in Australia, I was really challenged to help my students to not only think Christianity about my subject (which I hope I was already doing), but start to learn what it means to be a good historian, too, even at this early stage. The First Thanksgiving was helpful in my thinking. I also bought a copy for my mum, who isn’t a history teacher, but we happily discuss history long distance and across continents. She loved it too, and is also reading it twice, like me!

  3. An excellent book. I highly recommend it.

  4. 26 Oct 2016

    Yes, it was an excellent, thought provoking, insightful history. I even read thru it a 2nd time. Not something I commonly do with history books. Too bad it wasn’t published in hard cover.

    Gary Hotham

  5. Thank you for this suggestion! I am looking forward to reading it. What is your opinion on the Rush Limbaugh “Rush Revere” series for children? Would you suggest something else? We have children ages 10, 9, 6, and 4 and I’d love a read aloud for them.

    Thank you also for your writings. I don’t remember how I stumbled across your blog but I’ve been following for several months now and always look forward to your posts.

    • I hope you find the book worthwhile! Regarding a children’s book, I’m afraid I’m not much help, as I didn’t really look at that genre when researching for my book. As for Limbaugh’s Rush Revere series, I can’t recommend it at all. I have written several posts on it on this site, which you can find easily by searching for “Rush Revere.” Best, TM

  6. Have you compared the Pilgrim practice of Thanksgiving with the ones in Virginia. My Museum has a fair number of commemorative Civil War era documents on Lincoln’s proclamation for Thanksgiving. You inspired me to post a mini-exhibit of these for Thanksgiving this year.

    • Hi, No, I really didn’t do a systematic comparison of Thanksgiving celebrations elsewhere, but I do acknowledge that there were thanksgiving observances in a number of other locations well before 1621. I think the idea of an exhibit on Lincoln’s proclamation is a great idea.

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