Colonial House~review

by adustyframe ~ November 17th, 2009

I mentioned in an “outside the frame” feature that I found a mini-series from PBS called Colonial House.

We are reading The Landing of the Pilgrims right now and just finished a book about Squanto and I decided this would be a great show to watch to add to what we’ve learned.

I borrowed it from the library and James and I spent some weekend evenings watching it.

I thought it was very good in many ways.

We both realized how much hard work it took to build a colony. We knew it was hard, but watching them live as though they were in 1628 brought home how very difficult it was.

James and I both thought that even though this showed how difficult it was, the Pilgrims faced difficulties so much larger. They had terror on their side. If they didn’t work they would die.

These colonist definitely didn’t have that fire lit under them.

I was disappointed to see quite a few insertions of the 21st century mind into the show. Apparently they signed an agreement to follow 1600 laws, but the refusing to obey some of them was treated as “standing up for my beliefs”.

One lady refused to attend Sabbath meetings. One woman refused to wear the headcovering. Several complained when they had to sit by rank at the communal meal.

Those kind of things just wouldn’t have happened so vocally and like I said it was a bit disappointing to me. I’m sure that I’d have difficulty not inserting my modern American mind too in some cases though–for example ALL THE WORK!

The first Governor of the colony in modern times is a Baptist minister. It was interesting watching them deal with a group of people who largely didn’t believe as they did.

Of course we all know that not all Pilgrims were Puritans or Separatists, so the colonies may have had many unbelieving members as the show did.

I found it interesting to watch him struggle with punishing people for not attending Sabbath meetings. He said it goes against the grain of everything he believes in to force people to attend church.

Another interesting aspect of the show was watching the modern people who were assigned to be servants. They found it difficult as I’m sure I would have.

James and I watched these together. He didn’t have his eyes on the TV every moment because he was building with various toys.

There were a couple issues that came up that may cause you to feel this isn’t appropriate for your family. I didn’t know ahead of time!

1. One of the colonists decided to come out of the closet on the show–during the Sabbath meeting. My thoughts on that were just that it seemed really out of place.

James missed the whole discussion and said, “What is he telling them?” I just said, “He’s telling them he likes to sin.”

2. When the men go swimming they pull off their pants and jump in the water. The camera shows their backsides briefly.

3. One couple discusses the difficulty of finding time to be “alone”. It’s a brief discussion and as far as I noticed only came up once. I muted it.

4. Profanity is bleeped. In a few instances there is a considerable amount of bleeping. The colonists did have to wear a red “P” for profanity.

I do think it was a good resource and we learned a lot. I wish I’d read the “note to educators” on the site so I’d know to watch for the few things I mentioned. I frankly didn’t expect those things in a PBS presentation.  Although, I was amused to read in  the warning that the video contains discussions of religion.

So, after watching this, I’ll say that I really enjoyed it and I think that if you preview it and know when to skip parts you object to it would be useful.

It left me thinking about a few things.

1. I am way too lazy to be a Colonist.

2. I’m trying to decide what I think about the Colonist coming to America and the consequences to the Indians.

Interestingly enough, part of our family heritage is Creek Indian but we have a relative that was a Pilgrim. The whole thing is interesting to contemplate from both sides.

3. It’s so obvious that faith played a huge role in the founding of our country. I was blessed to see (in the interviews after the show) that one of the Colonists decided to pursue becoming a minister. He said his faith became so real to him while he was shut away from his life and friends and family.

The website shows lots of neat pieces of the show. Here’s a photo gallery.


For teachers

If you like living history, see if you can find this. We found it very enjoyable even with the “warts”.


4 Thoughts Shared to Colonial House~review

  1. MamaHen

    I only saw bits and pieces of Colonial House when it ran on TV. I remember not liking it because everyone complained SO MUCH. But, I have to admit, I would probably be complaining also.

    Have you seen Pioneer House or Victorian House? I loved Pioneer House, but there was also lots of complaining.

    We’ve got it pretty good in 2009 don’t we?

  2. Lisa

    I am a big fan of the BRITISH “house” shows–“1900 House,” and “1940s House” but the American ones were not as good–like the “coming out” scene you mention. The 1900/1940s kept more to the point.

  3. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

    I did see this when it came out and really enjoyed it~but also was frustrated with those who didn’t follow what they agreed to. It also makes me realize that if my homesteading dreams were realized I would probably cry for the first two years over the hard work. SAD but TRUE!!! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. leftcoastonlooker

    I think I remember seeing bits & pieces of it — but not enough to have noticed all of that.

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