Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Mayflower Generation - The Leeds Library

Ellie Goodwin writes:
Rebecca Fraser
Photo: Richard Wilcocks

Another lovely talk at the wonderful Leeds Library. This talk on passengers on the Mayflower voyage was really informative and delivered with a lot of expertise. What really struck me about those who were on the Mayflower was their circumstances prior to the voyage. Rebecca demonstrated that they were gentlemen farmers and successful middle class people who gave up their positions in the hopes of bringing their religion to the new, 'pure' land of America, far away from preexisting Christian institutions. Not the desperate bunch I expected at all!

It was interesting to see the ornate writing desks and cradles among the possessions the Mayflower passengers took with them and from these objects get an idea of the life they had in England and then later in Leiden.

It was really sad to learn about the change in attitudes towards Native Americans from when the Mayflower passengers first landed in America. Rebecca described how they were treated kindly by the Native Americans, and were in turn tolerant and kind to them, believing that they did not have authority over the indigenous people. Yet, as Rebecca very nicely put it, more English people arriving in America ruined the relationship between Native Americans and the colony. The Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow seemed to epitomise this shift as he moved away from Plymouth (founded by the Mayflower voyagers) to Boston and grew more conservative and wary of Native Americans, compared to the tolerant attitude of his younger years. He was also the only passenger on the Mayflower to have his portrait painted! 

Rebecca ended her talk by comparing the experience with Mayflower passengers with refugees today and it was interesting to consider how the Pilgrim fathers would have fared if they were travelling in the present day. I loved the care and passion that you could see in Rebecca's talk and I left with lots to think about!

LitFest is grateful for the support from Leeds university students Ellie Goodwin and Ashley Phun

Audience Comments

Very informative talk.

It was interesting how the main reason for the Mayflower was freedom of religious belief and they clearly did not come from an affluent background. You have to commend (Pastor) Robinson for not attempting to force Christian beliefs on the Indians. It would have been hypocritical but in the end this is what happens: as was quoted at the time, 'the persecuted became persecutors'. The second series of Sky One series 'Jamestown' seems to me to be very reflective of tonight's talk - the tragic story of the mail-order bride in episode five was romantically very emotional and something that could really have happened especially when only half the passengers on the original Mayflower did not survive the voyage.

A very important talk presented well - lots of modern resonances. Speaker very erudite.

Great talk full of facts I did not know about he Mayflower voyage, like the time the pilgrims spent in the Netherlands. 

Very interesting article with a lot information. Would work better if not just read out, but more of a talk with slower rhythm.

Well-paced, enjoyable presentation of facts.

LitFest should do more historical talks - local history included.

The talk was formal and a bit academic but impressive. Fraser best when she was informal during question time, for me.

Great to attend a presentation by an authority on her subject.

I liked the way the speaker drew parallels with the refugees of the present day, for example from Syria. Important to remember how there have always been asylum seekers escaping from persecution. We should remember that it is a mark of a mature democracy to treat their cases with sympathy.

Not really expecting a lecture.

It was very interesting to learn about the Mayflower settlers on both a personal and political level, particularly their relationship with the Native Americans in the region. It was a very informative and nuanced account. The library itself was a beautiful and very pleasant location.

Most insightful account of historic expedition and story of survival against all odds.

I found it very difficult to sit through 45 minutes of being read to. Very little eye contact with the audience. We had expected to hear more about the settlers themselves and the development of Plymouth as a colony.

A very informative talk. Loved it all. 

A very informative talk. 

Very interesting and informative.

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