Adrian Tinniswood

The Rainborowes

Two Worlds, One Dream. A New England.

Out of the dawn mist a fleet of longboats glides across the flooded meadows. The dark, sleek vessels bristle with guns and pikes, held aloft by a small army of Connecticut fighters and weather-beaten Massachusetts militia-men. Standing in the prow of the leading boat, like Washington crossing the Delaware, is a broad, barrel-chested man with long flowing hair and a blood-red banner emblazoned with the motto ‘Truth Conquers’.

This isn’t the American Revolution. It isn’t even America. It is England in 1644 and the war between King and Parliament is about to take a new direction.

The Rainborowes are coming.

If things had turned out differently, the men and women of the Rainborowe family might have lived out lives indistinguishable from the thousands of hard-working, god-fearing entrepreneurs and artisans who made their homes by the Thames in 17th-century London. They might have been commonplace.

But something in the Rainborowes’ make-up set them apart. Turned them into adventurers. Made them sea-captains and pirate-hunters, revolutionaries and visionaries and pioneers. The Thames was not wide enough, the London sky was not big enough, England was not good enough for them. So they went in search of something better.

The Rainborowes bridges two generations and two worlds as it carries the reader back and forth across the Atlantic, weaving together the lives of different members of the Rainborowe clan as they struggle to forge a better life for themselves and a better future for humankind in the New World and in the Old, as colonists, entrepreneurs and idealists. The narrative unfolds between 1630 and 1660 – a time which shattered England and shaped America – and follows the fortunes of William Rainborowe, a formidable merchant-mariner and shipmaster, and his equally formidable sons and daughters. As it does, the reader comes to know and understand not only the lives and loves of a single family, but the dreams of an entire culture – confused and chaotic, catching hold of hope and losing its grip on old certainties. The Rainborowes explains America and mourns England’s failed revolution. It spans oceans and ideologies and encompasses personal tragedies and triumphs, the death of kings and the birth of nations.

The Rainborowes’ story has never been told before. And it is such an astonishing story, taking the reader from remote islands in the Aegean Sea to the pine forests of Massachusetts and the busy, muddy streets of Boston and Charlestown; from hectic London shipyards to the bloodiest battles of the English civil war, that terrible conflict which turned the world around and set in train a series of events which would eventually lead to the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the creation of the modern democratic state.

Using rare printed material from the period and unpublished manuscripts from collections in Britain and America The Rainborowes recreates, more vividly than ever before, day-to-day life on both sides of the Atlantic during one of the most tumultuous periods in Western history. In their efforts to build a paradise on earth, the Rainborowes and their friends encounter pirates and witches, prophets and princes, Moslem militants and Mohican Indians. They build new societies. They are ordinary men and women, and they do an extraordinary thing.

They change the world.


The Rainborowes is published by Jonathan Cape and Basic Books on 5 September 2013. UK readers can pre-order here and US readers can pre-order here.