A really important part of our project is communicating our research with the wider public – if you would like us to come and give a talk to your group, society or institution, please do get in contact!
12pm EST, 9th April – ‘John Alden’s Choice: a historical re-enactment of love, war, and Anglo-American friendship’ – video here
In 1917, the USA entered the First World War on the side of Britain and the Allied Powers. Three years later, the Anglo-American world marked the 300th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage. Across Britain and the USA, local communities celebrated their connection to the Pilgrims in festivals of religious service, public parades and musical performance. One of the most popular forms of commemoration was the ‘historical pageant’, a type of historical re-enactment in which casts of thousands were brought together to perform their local history to huge audiences in outdoor arenas. In this illustrated talk I’ll take you back to one of the most fascinating historical pageants of 1920: John Alden’s Choice. Performed in the quays of Southampton, a historic point of departure for the Mayflower in 1620, this was public spectacle on a grand scale. It told the story of not just Alden and his romance with Priscilla Mullins, but the whole history of the USA, all the way from encounters with Native Americans to the joining of Britain and the USA in the Great War. In the shadow of that great conflict, Americans and Britons came together to not just remember their past, but to imagine their future as well.
12pm EST, 12th March 2021 – ‘The Mayflower and Britain: a tour across Pilgrim memory in the 19th and 20th centuries’ – online talk for the Alden House Historic Site (Duxbury, MA) – video here.
Britain has often been ‘the bad guy’ in the story of the Mayflower: a land so intolerant that a brave band of pious persecuted Pilgrims had to escape and settle in an ‘unknown land’. So it may surprise us to learn that there is a long and diverse history of commemorating the voyage in the land of the Pilgrims’ birth, stretching all the way back into the reign of Queen Victoria. In this illustrated talk I will take you on a journey across the British landscape to visit these many sites of Pilgrim memory – many that survive, but some that do not. We will see monuments and memorials to the voyage, from the earliest that stand in the ports of Plymouth and Southampton to recent abstract statues in shopping malls. On the way we will drop into Houses of Parliament, to admire a great wall painting from the 1840s, as well as many historic churches in the midlands, where beautiful stained glasses celebrate their congregation’s connection to the ‘Fathers’. Strange and curious landmarks will be visited too, from the lump of Plymouth Rock in a north London chapel in the 1880s, to the ‘Mayflower Barn’ – supposedly made of the recycled timbers of the ship and ‘discovered’ in 1920. The Pilgrims may have eventually found a ‘new home’ on the other side of the Atlantic, but there are plenty of reminders of their tale back in their ‘old home’ too.
The Mayflower Pageants, Memorials & Cocktails: Commemorating the Mayflower in Southampton
12th August 7pm – God’s House Tower, Southampton – public talk by Dr Tom Hulme – cancelled due to COVID-19 – alternative podcast: http://voyagingthroughhistory.exeter.ac.uk/podcasts/
Southampton, as one of the places from which the ship had sail, was a keen participant in the Mayflower mania that developed in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1913 the town unveiled its ‘Mayflower Memorial’ and, in 1920, there were extensive celebrations – from historical re-enactment pageantry to municipal parades. Interest remained strong into the later part of the 20th century, coming to a peak with the celebrations in 1970 (which involved the creation of a new cocktail!). This talk tells the story of the cultural afterlife of the Mayflower voyage in Southampton – all the way to the present.
The Mayflower in Britain: Myth, Legend and Commemoration since the 17th century
A series of public talks at the British Library in Summer 2020 delivered by members of the project team, showing the different ways that Britons from all walks of life have engaged with the story of the voyage. – All videos here.
- 7th September 2020 – Dr Ed Downey, ‘Novelists, poets and pilgrims: the Mayflower in British literature’
- 14th September 2020 – Dr Tom Hulme, ‘Performing the Pilgrim Fathers: re-living the past through popular theatre’
- 21st September 2020- Dr Martha Vandrei, ‘What became of the Mayflower? Searching for a lost ship in 1920s Britain’
Four Nations Commemoration, 1620-2020: The Pilgrims and the Politics of Memory – Leiden, 26-28 August 2020
We put on a panel, Historical Culture and the Afterlife of the Mayflower in Britain, 1870s-1940s, with papers on:
- Dr Tom Hulme, ‘Anglo-Saxons and English-speaking peoples: colonialism, racial theory and the Mayflower’
- Dr Edmund Downey, ‘John Boyle O’Reilly: Fenian revolutionary and Mayflower poet’
- Dr Martha Vandrei, ‘Knowledge, memory, mythography: the Mayflower in the work of James Rendel Harris (1852-1941)’