The Mayflower

The ship Mayflower which carried the pilgrims to Plymouth

Rationale of the picture:

I chose this picture because I think that it portrays perfectly this era’s most important voyage for Western world. Thanks to the Mayflower, pilgrims were able to make it to the New World and start a colony there. A colony that would be one of the foundations for USA. It is worth mentioning that as they were Separatists, who traveled to America, they spread Christianity there. Today, the U.S hosts the most puritans in the world and religion overall has a big impact on the country. It has helped many to form morally right values. It has also been one of the key elements in conservatives’ political campaigns. In the picture, it is a steady sea which means that it’s probably the beginning of the voyage. It helps to convey the message that at first, the adventurers have no idea what terrible storms await them and what obstacles they will have to overcome. The same way is with colonists later arriving in America. Upon arriving they can’t imagine the freezing winter ahead of them, nor the wars for America’s independence. At first sight, everything seems as calm as the sea in the beginning of the peregrination and in this picture.

Critical response to the accuracy of the film:

The documentary is about the ship Mayflower which sailed from England to the New World carrying pilgrims who wished to start a colony there. However, the film is not historically always accurate. I am going to bring out the differences between reality and the film that I found and also discuss their relevance to the story.

To begin with, the ship Speedwell had problems already in the beginning. Speedwell was the ship the pilgrims bought to get from the Netherlands to England. In the documentary, everything went smoothly during that trip. Nevertheless, historical evidence suggests that the ship had been leaking throughout the first voyage as well. ” The Speedwell had been leaking on her voyage from the Netherlands to England, though, so they spent the next week patching her up. ” In the film, troubles did not start until the voyage to New World. Given the fact that the pilgrims knew about the vicissitudes with Speedwell of the first trip, they could have saved time by abandoning the Speedwell right there. If a ship is struggling to cover such a short distance, how is it expected to be able to cross the Atlantic ocean. If the Separatists would not have bothered trying to repair the ship, they would have probably also saved a lot of resources. This means they could have set sail earlier and made it to Plymouth way before winter. That way they would have had more time to prepare for the winter and less people would have died. This means the colony would have prospered sooner and it would have also become richer more rapidly.

The winter brings me to my next point. The film skipped the first winter. In reality, it was a vital part of the expedition. Those, who managed to get through the first winter, were the survivors and build up the colony. These were the ones who we have to thank for the civilization in America today. “The colonists spent the first winter, which only 53 passengers and half the crew survived, living onboard the Mayflower. ” I think the harsh winter should have been in the movie because it would have helped the audience to understand better the endless struggles that colonists faced and how much they actually had to go through. Realizing it, makes it easier for us to discern the significance of the colonists’ deeds. It would have also helped viewer to understand the causes of certain activities in the documentary. For example, in the end it said that William Bradford remarried but it never mentioned what happened to his first wife. Telling us that she died along with many others during the first winter, would have made things clearer.

Lastly, the movie displayed some of the characters in a negative light who did not deserve it. When Speedwell turned out not be practical for the peregrination, about 20 people wishing to sail to America at first, were left to England. People had different reasons for that, but in the film a particular person was brought out. It stated the Robert Cushman decided to stay in England because allegedly his heart and courage was gone. This, however, is fallacious accusation as he actually was suffering from a sickness. “After the decision to abandon the Speedwell, Cushman and his family had priority to sail on the Mayflower but they declined – probably because of Robert’s illness.” He was not afraid of the voyage and despite wanting to sail to the New World, he was forced to stay in England by his illness. He was able to cure himself and in fact, played an important role in signing documents to maintain the support of Britain for the colony later on.

The documentary did contain a few misleading facts. Notwithstanding, the story of Mayflower is still worthy of telling as it improves our understanding of USA’s foundation.

Sources used:

Jamestown’s first colonists boarding their ships

Mayflower notions:

First settlements

Jamestown Colony: 1607 First permanent English settlement in North America. On the banks of the James river. Many died due to famine, conflicts, diseases. Next group of settlers came 3 years later.

Living conditions: Disastrous; hunger, illness because of dirty water. Conflicts with Algonquian tribes. By 1610 80%-90% of the initial settlers had died

Population: 100 members of Virginia Company foundent the 1st settlement and by 1699 there were 60k people inc. 6k African slaves

Plantations: Skills from Native Americans to harvest corn(1611). In 1614 John Rolfe introduced a new variation of tobacco and by growin it, the economy flourished.

Import of slaves: In 1619 first African slaves picking tobacco. This made Virginia acceptant to slavery.

Mayflower and Pilgrim Fathers

Radical puritans who had to flee from England due to intolerance during James I time. They established the 2nd English Colony in NA. These people wanted religious freedom. “Pilgrim fathers” came 2 centuries later.

Mayflower: The ship carrying PIlgrims from England to Plymouth weighing 180 tons, 27m long. Initial plan for Mayflower  was to land in Northern Virginia.

Mayflower Compact

Rules/laws for self-governance in Plymouth introduced by people arriving there on Mayflower. They presumed the life to be catastrophic without functioning social system.

Puritan colony in Plymouth, New England

In 1620 first set of permanent European settlers in Cape Cod. Over 50% died during the 1st winter, but later survivors managed to secure peace treaties with neighbours. The minority of Separatists formed a strong center and controlled the colony completely for first 40 years. Colony self-sufficent in 5 years tahnks to agriculture, trading, fishing.

Puritan ethics and ideology

Puritan ethic: Valuing hard work, frugality. Church leader: Richard Baxter. Puritan maximazes effectiveness. God first

Puritan ideology: In New World they wished to regain closeness to God. They chose to do it by living a simple life and negating worldliness.


November 1621 when new Pilgrims gathered with locals at Plymouth for harvest celebration. Thanksgiving to almighty God. On 4th Thursday in November it is a tradition for nowadays’ Americans as well.

Religious issues(freedom)

According to law: everyone belonging to the Church of England. Archbishop of Canterbury with Charles I strongly wished to suppress puritans.


First Quaker missionaries in america in the 1650s. Quakers advocate for pacifism helped to the cause of the Abolition and women’s rights. A Quaker rejects flamboyant religious ceremonies, has no official clergy and believes in spiritual equality. The Quaker Movement was founded in 17th century by George Fox. They proclaimed God exists in every person.

Origin of Native Americans

There are many theories as to who are the ancestors of Native Americans. Today: 3 main theories, that seem valid. 1 theory mentions the migration from Polynesia and from the northern parts of China. Most rife speculation is that natives crossed Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and America, which is now the Bering Strait some 15k-30k years ago. It is clear that the migration went on for thousands years and not in one wave.

Different tribes and their way of life

Many various tribes in the U.S. The most known tribes are the Navajo, the Pueblo, the Apache and the Iroquois. The Navajo settlements are located in the western part of the US: Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The Navajo are with a semi-nomadic lifestyle and the people were hunters-gatherers before the Spanish contact. Their tribe is one of the oldest in the US with their specialty of silversmithing. Also the Navajo formed raid and trade caravans, which travelled through the country.

The Apache reside in New Mexico and in its surrounding areas. Its name derives from the word ápachu, meaning “enemy” in the local language. The Apache were a nomadic tribe and most of the tribesmen were hunters or farmers. They lived in a parsimonious house called tipi. Apaches lived with their immediate family in clusters with others.

 The Pueblo live in the same region as the Navajo. They were a static tribe with more permanent and compact villages, which were carved in the faces of cliffs. The residences are called pit houses. The Pueblo are notably skilled at pottery and architecture.

 The Iroquois live in the north-eastern region in the United States in states, such as Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. Stationary lifestyle

Legend of Pocahontas

The legend of Pocahontas tells a story of a native American, who wished for peace between the indigenous and the colonists. Pocahontas was a princess from the Powhatan tribe. She saved a colonist named John Smith, who was captured by the locals. During her visit, she converted to Christianity, adopted a new name Rebecca and married to an Englishman. Other residents of the colony dubbed Rebecca a “civilized savage”, as they wanted to increase investment on the new continent. The incident was significat becuase it showed the aboriginals could be civilised and turned into christanity.

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Proposed by president Thomas Jefferson. The declaration recognized the territory of the US, within the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The act laid the bases of governing the Northwestern Territory. It contained information  that the territory is to be divided to districts and each district is run by a governor. The territory was the first region to abolish slavery. In addition, the act stated that each new state is equal to the older states, not inferior, as it was before the ordinance.

Indian Removal Act of 1830

It was signed by Andrew Jackson in 1830. It granted the government to acquire the land of native tribes. As a consequence, many indigenous tribes were forced to relocate west. It is believed that over 100,000 people were moved to the Rockies for forced labour.


Government of the USA took more lands from the natives. This action left natives with no income and poverty and famines followed suit. In 1868, president Ulysses S. Grant gave back many areas of land to the locals, in an effort to make peace between homeless natives and the government. Today there are 326 reservations for natives, some of these benefit from resources and others suffer from economic and social problems.

Indian citizenship Act of 1924

A congressman Homer P. Synder supported the act of giving indigenous Americans US citizenship. The proposal came to light after the First World War, where natives could serve in the army, but were not allowed to vote.

Trail of Broken Treaties of 1972

The Trail of Broken Treaties was a protest dedicated to the horrible living conditions of indigenous Americans. The protest swept the nation and protesters formed a caravan from Washington D.C to the Pacific coast. The rebels even conquered the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At the end, the protesters were heard and the government commenced negotiations to improve the situation of natives.

Present situation

Today there are around 9 million native Americans in the US. However, the problems of native Americans are still apparent, mainly due to the inequality between Americans and the indigenous. These problems include lack of education for natives, living conditions and bad housing. Another issue is the emigration of natives from the reservations to big cities. As it is seen, the gap between the local tribes and USA is still visible.

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