Myths, Truths and Legacies

The sailing of the Mayflower in 1620 is a celebrated foundation myth of the United States and a global symbol of the flight from oppression to freedom. It is a migrant story with a powerful resonance for the events of our time as we approach the 400th anniversary. For the first time it will be celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic.

This book aims to unravel the Mayflower legends with intriguing stories from the actual historic narrative. Jacobean London was the great city of merchant adventurers and dubious men on the margins of commerce and trade. It is a story of wonder and fear, of hope and greed, of piety and exploitation with an exceptional cast of characters.


Like many English men and women who risked the Atlantic journey in the seventeenth century, the Pilgrims, as they later became known, were not fleeing persecution but were in search of a better life, hoping to preserve their pious community. The Mayflower, far from a ship of hope, became a ship of death anchored in Plymouth Harbour following their arrival in New England in the harsh months of winter.

These fraught and troubled beginnings were purposefully re-invented two hundred years on. New England politicians, pastors, poets, artists and orators turned the Mayflower story into a national myth, expressly ignoring the earlier colony at Jamestown. Their stories eclipsed the narrative of proud Southern planters and captured the popular imagination. It was the first official public education campaign and the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ took centre stage.


The Mayflower: Myths, Truths and Legacies by Rita Cruise O’Brien, publication April 2020 from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

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