The Plymouth settlement acquired a huge role in the U.S. national legend as the northern "founding" -- a source of much of our religious and colonial history. This is mostly myth, but these were nonetheless intriguing people. All I was ever told about Plymouth as the child of a mother somewhat proud of her ancestry was that "they must have been very brave." Indeed these Puritans must have been. They crossed the Atlantic on a leaky, overcrowded cargo ship, 102 passengers on deck with 30 crew members. They failed to find their intended destination, the mouth of the Hudson River, and put ashore of necessity on the coast of Massachusetts two months later. Only 50 survived the first winter.
It seems fitting to share one last tidbit from Diarmaid MacCulloch' The Reformation: A History about this unpromising colonial enterprise. He sets them in their place in the conflicted landscape of England on the eve of the Civil War over state and religion (1642-1651). He agrees they were stubborn -- and perhaps a little daft.
My determination to learn a little more about these people this year was one impetus for my long exploration of MacCulloch's opus. There's much to unpack. More will follow this year from more sources.
Previous posts in my The Reformation: A History series:
The Reformation: Islamophobia and a slavery past
The subversive weapon of the Reformation: musical propaganda
Bishop Laud and his cats
On blaming capitalism on the Protestant Reformation
But how did Reformation-era people live?
The illustration is from an 1884 Plymouth tourist postcard.