Wednesday 9 December 2020, 7.30pm
Much of the publicity surrounding the Mayflower voyage and its passengers has suggested that they were a rapacious crew whose aim was to exploit the Native American population. It has been suggested they were involved in the slave trade, that they killed many by spreading disease, that they drove the people from their lands.
The narrative has been skewed by the amount of publicity given to the Native Americans who lived in the area settled by the voyagers. They did indeed come to the aid of the settlers once half of them had died, but anniversary organisers Mayflower 400 and The Box Museum in Plymouth, Devon, have been keen to ‘debunk some of the myths surrounding the voyage’ and emphasised the impact of British colonialism on the Wampanoags with tales of ‘of persecution, loss and oppression.
Is this a fair representation? Certainly the Native Americans, the Wampanoag deserve a place in the story but the pilgrims were refugees. Of the total on board, half were women and children; hardly a warrior tribe. They made a peace with the Wampanoag, in March 1621 which lasted more than 50 years.
As for the ‘chancers’ who hoped to make their fortune trading fur and fish there were so few of them left after the winter of 1621 that, far from driving the Wampanoag away they struggled to survive and for the most part lived as harmoniously with the tribes people as the pilgrims.
Richard Holledge is a freelance journalist based in the UK. Author of Voices of the Mayflower; the saints, strangers and sly knaves who changed the world. Also; The Scattered, an account of the genocidal expulsion of the French population of Nova Scotia – the Acadians – by the British in 1755. Writer of Life and Chimes, a year in the life of Portsmouth Football Club. Formerly an executive editor at The Times of London, assistant editor at The Independent and several other national newspapers now specialises writing about the arts and life style for the Wall Street Journal, Gulf News, the FT and the New European.
Eventbrite booking link here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mayflower-400-richard-holledge-tickets-127012887967