Talk: A place of ‘Wild and Savage Hue’: The political ecological legacies of the Mayflower Sailing

By Johann Theodore de Bry after Georg Keller Engraving from book page, 1619 Plate 9 from America, Part 10

  • Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

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In this lecture Professor Joy Porter, University of Hull, broadens and lengthens thinking on the ecological, political and cultural impacts of the Mayflower Sailing. It begins by contrasting Greta Thurnberg’s recent transatlantic sailing with that of the Mayflower as a way to think about how much has changed – and stayed the same.

The lecture connects the ecological impacts begun by Mayflower to the 19th Century and the present day; from species introduction, eg of ‘English honey bees’, to the impact of settlement on streams, fish and forests.

It explores evidence about what it felt like to be in that “hideous and desolate wilderness” from both settler and indigenous perspectives, and the approaches to resources this entailed. Fellow travellers with the Mayflower occupants - from bed bugs to human lice - are a special focus. Thirteen new immigrant insects got established by 1800 in what became the United States and they had profound impact on crop production, set the stage for further species introductions and prompted a series of other changes. A much bigger and more immediate problem however, was the soil exhaustion brought about by non-indigenous settlement.

Date: Thursday 19 March
Time: 19:00 – 20:30
Venue: Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building
Free admission, booking advised

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Today's events

Mayflower Lecture Series

Encounters and Ecologies: the Words, Worlds and Legacies of Mayflower, 1620-2020

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing from Plymouth in September 1620. From the very early narratives of encounter in North America, rich and new natural environments became a source of wonder, anxiety and profit; to indigenous people of North America, the natural environment was part of a very different world view.  

The texts and materials through which we understand these environments in moments of change, as well as the legacies and impacts on the communities involved, are at the heart of this series of talks. 

This series of four lectures seeks to establish a four-nations approach to the anniversary, as we discover, investigate and interrogate the legacies of this heritage from a Dutch, English, Native American and US perspective. Through each of these events, invited speakers will make accessible their recent research into different aspects of the Atlantic world as they unravel the interactions of communities and ideas within rapidly changing environments.

Following a successful annual Mayflower Lecture series over several years, including talks on food, myths, diplomacy and museum collections, in 2019-2020 we will offer four new lectures from invited speakers on a range of topics.

Discover more about the University's contribution to the Mayflower 400 commemorations.

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