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International Leiden Mayflower 400 Conference GOES ONLINE

Wednesday 26 August 2020 - Friday 28 August 2020
Due to the corona pandemic measures, the Leiden-Mayflower400 conference will be held online.
This 1620 painting by Adam Willaerts may depict the Pilgrims’ departure from Delfshaven, near Rotterdam. Rose-Marie and Eijk de Mol van Otterloo Collection

Four Nations Commemoration, 1620-2020:  The Pilgrims and the Politics of Memory

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to America. Of the one hundred English “Pilgrims” undertaking the 1620 voyage, fifty hailed from Leiden, the Netherlands, where they had lived as religious refugees since 1609. The Mayflower voyage and the foundation of Plymouth Colony have become linked with origin narratives of the United States, which ignore not only the Pilgrims’ almost twelve-year sojourn in Leiden and the larger Atlantic networks in which they were operating, but also, more importantly, the continuing impact of colonialism on indigenous societies and cultures.

While a century ago, as a recent exhibition at Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Mass., has shown, the tercentenary of the founding of Plymouth in 1920 was, “unabashedly, a celebration of America’s founding,” such a blithely nationalist narrative no longer is acceptable in an age in which we have become increasingly aware of the need to find more inclusive ways to memorialize “difficult” histories in all their historical, ideological, and ethical complexities.

The international Leiden Mayflower 400 conference will take place online on August 26-28, 2020. More than thirty international scholars from Europe and the U.S. will participate. Because of the different times zones of the participants, the sessions will be held from 15:00 (3 pm) to 21:00 (9pm) Leiden time, with breaks. The keynote lecture by Prof. Francis Bremer and the two round tables will be open (online) to the public (after registration).

Tentative Program (Leiden Local Time)

14.00‐15.00 Welcome
15.00‐15.30 Opening: virtual welcome to Leiden

Parallel Panels 1 + 2

1. Colonial‐Indigenous Interactions: Wampanoag and Haudenosaunee

  • James Ring Adams (National Museum of the American Indian - Smithsonian), What They Should Have Known 
  • Iris Plessius (RU Nijmegen), Resisting the Dutch: Interactions between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch Commissioners of Indian Affairs 1696-1755
  • Eileen Speijer (Sorbonne), The Dutch colonists and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.  

2. Law and covenantal religion in Puritan New England

  • Scott Douglas Gerber (Ohio Northern U / Brown), Law and Religion in Plymouth Colony
  • Nan Goodman (CU Boulder), From the "Northern Parts of Virginia" to "Cape-Cod": Legal Pluraritis and the Synonymic Manipulation of Jurisdiction in the Mayflower Compact
  • Sarah Hall (York U), Covenants, obligation and regulation in early New England Puritan communities.            
17.00‐17.30 Break

Parallel panels 3 + 4

3. Native‐Americans/slavery/political economy/language 

  • Steve Cushion (U and College Union, London), The Absence of the New England/Caribbean link in the Mayflower 400 Commemorations. 
  • Margaret E. Newell (Ohio State U), From 1619 to 1620: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery                        
  • Margaret Noodin & Johannes Britz (UW-Milwaukee / U Pretoria), Anishinaabe and Afrikaans Stories of Pilgrims, Farmers and Relationships of Settlement  

4. Colonization and Anglo-Dutch relations  

  • Jaap Jacobs (St Andrews), Competing Claims: Anglo-Dutch Rivalry in Early Seventeenth Century North America      
  • Lauren Lauret (Leiden), Following in the Pilgrims' footsteps? Dutch Travellers in the United States and their Critique of American Society, 1780-1860.                    
  • Mathilde Roza (RU Nijmegen), Jo Spier’s pen drawings of Dutch 17th-century exploration and colonialism in the New World as manifestations of Dutch identity                        
18.45‐19.45 Break
  20.00‐20.45 Keynote Francis J. Bremer: "Leiden and the Pilgrim Way"
20.45‐21.00 Q&A keynote

Parallel panels 5 + 6

5. Constructing Pilgrim Memory: Memorials, Museums, Commemorations.

  • Sam Edwards (Manchester Metropolitan U), The First Sailing: Commemorating the Pilgrim Fathers on the Humber, c.1921-1970’ 
  • Emily Wilday Ricker (U Hawai‘i, Mānoa), Museums, Membership Organizations, and Memory Work: Contemporary Perpetuation of and Pushback to Colonial Mythologies in New England 
  • Anna Scott (Lincoln U), Challenging the Myth: Re-imagining the Pilgrims, Pilgrim Roots & Mayflower 400             

6. Indigenous Centers, European Peripheries: Re-Thinking the Narrative of European Invasion  

  • Kristofer Ray (Hull), Towards an Indigenous Frontier Thesis: England, France, and Native Power in Trans-Appalachia 1585-1715
  • Sarah Smeed (Kent), Face-to-Face: Head styling and Image in Euro-Indigenous relations c. 1620 – 1720
  • Raymond Orr (Oklahoma U), Comparative Perspectives on Early Violence in Settler Societies: Australia and US            
16.15-16.45 Break

Parallel panels 7 + 8    
7. AlterNative visions of origins          

  • Andrea Silis (UCLan), Conflicting Epistemological Frameworks in Toni Morrison’s Novel A Mercy (2008): An Alternative American Origins Narrative.                  
  • Cathy C. Waegner (Siegen), "Somehow we need Indians”: Postcolonial Humor and Transnational Commemoration in Larissa Fasthorse’s The Thanksgiving Play (2018). 
  • Carla Pestana (UCLA), Plymouth Plantation’s significance, then and now                    

8. Pilgrim-indigenous relations in early texts  

  • Sandra Perot (Berkshire School), Identity, Social Intercourse, and Exchange: Mourt’s Relation and First Contact, 1620-1621                 
  • Monika Mueller (U Bochum), “Look down and see my plague sores . . . my saviour”: The Disobedient Body in Puritan Writing        
  • Lukas Etter (Siegen), Calculated Caesuras? School Mathematics and the Pilgrims between Early 17th-Century Leiden and Early 19th-Century New England.                    
18:00-19:30 Break & Virtual event

Plenary Round Table: A Critical Backstory to Colonization: Paula Peters, Hartman Deetz, and Michelle L. Cook.


Parallel panels 9 + 10  

9. Pilgrim memory work in Children's literature and school books and popular iconography  

  • Abram van Engen (Washington U), Twentieth-Century Pilgrims and Puritans
  • Joshua Parker (Salzburg U), Holland Mania and American Children’s Literature, 1880-1920   
  • Jonathan Beecher Field (Clemson U), Pilgrims, Natives, & Settler Kitsch                     

10. Historical Culture and the Afterlife of the Mayflower in Britain, 1870s-1940s 

  • Tom Hulme (Queen’s U Belfast), Anglo-Saxons and English-Speaking Peoples: Colonialism, Racial Theory and the Mayflower                    
  • Ed Downey (Queen’s U Belfast), John Boyle O'Reilly: Fenian Revolutionary and Mayflower Poet                    
  • Martha Vandrei (Exeter U), Knowledge, memory, mythography: the Mayflower in the work of James Rendel Harris (1852-1941)                    
16.15-16.45 Break
16:45-18.00 Plenary Round Table: The great significance of Jeremy Bangs for Pilgrim Studies
18:00 Closing words


Keynote speaker:

Francis J. Bremer, Professor Emeritus of History at Millersville University, and internationally renowned Puritanism scholar and coordinator of the website New England Beginnings.


College van Bestuur Leiden University, Leiden University Fund, Leiden University Institute for History and Centre for the Arts in society (LUCAS), Office of the Mayor of Leiden, and Leiden Marketing.

For more information

Write to Johanna C. Kardux, or to conference assistant Monica Lensink.

Organizing committee

Advisory Board

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