Plymouth has been the starting point for many globally significant voyages of discovery. But few of these are better known or have provided such a lasting international legacy, as the sailing of the Mayflower almost 400 years ago.
Dr Kathryn Gray, the University’s Associate Professor in Early American Literature, explains:
“When the Mayflower left Plymouth harbour in 1620, it was not the first ship to set sail across the Atlantic to North America, and nor was Plymouth Colony the first successful English colony in the New World. And yet, through the signing of the Mayflower Compact, a document that agreed a form of representational government, and the celebration of the first Thanksgiving, the Mayflower voyage and the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony became central to the popular origin narrative of the United States.
The experiences of the Mayflower passengers when they arrived in New England were, at times, harrowing: only half of the settlers survived the first winter, and without the help and resources from local Native American tribes, the Wampanoag in particular, it is unlikely that they would have survived at all. Embedded in this pivotal moment in history are the interconnected stories and experiences of the so-called Pilgrims, the indigenous populations, as well as other migrants to the North America, including slaves.