The Pilgrim Fathers

IN THE year 1608 a band of devout Nottinghamshire Puritans fled with their persecuted families to Holland, hoping to find a religious climate more tolerant than that of Jacobean England. But twelve years in the Dutch university town of Leyden brought bitter dis­illusionment. In 1620 the Pilgrims went into voluntary exile to found a new home in North America as the Virginian settlers had done before.

In an exciting documentary approach, Dr. Cowie traces the early years of the Pilgrims in England and Holland and shows how, with the aid of London merchants, two ships were hired for the perilous sea voyage—the Mayflower and Speedwell (later sabotaged). Vividly, he recreates the cramped conditions aboard the 180-ton Mayflower for the psalm-singing passengers and sceptical crew. After sighting Cape Cod, the Pilgrims began to explore the rocky coast in search of a home, struggling through a bitterly cold winter to shelter and defend themselves. Dr. Cowie suggests the Pilgrims’ debt not only to their leaders—John Carver, William Bradford and Miles Standish—but to local Indians who, like Samoset, were highly curious about the new arrivals.

But the price of settling Plymouth was high. Within twelve months half the Pilgrims perished of scurvy and other dietary diseases, and not until 1648 were their London debts finally repaid. By now, however, the whole character of the Plymouth Colony was changing under pressures from nearby Boston, and from the influx of new immigrants, few of whom cherished the Pilgrims’ own ideals.

  1. Puritans and Persecution
  2. The Pilgrims of Leyden
  3. Eyes on America
  4. The Mayflower Voyage
  5. Towards New Plymouth
  6. The Scourge of Winter
  7. Red Indians
  8. Building a New Home
  9. Changing New England
  • Appendix One: The Mayflower
  • Appendix Two: The Mayflower Pilgrims
  • Sources