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New Thinking: The Mayflower and Native American History

How do we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim voyage? Historians Sarah Churchwell, Kathryn Napier Gray & Lauren Working join Eleanor Barraclough to discuss.

From fancy dress parties using native American head-dresses to the continuing significance of Wampum belts made of shells - how do particular objects help us tell the story of the colonisation of America and what is the legacy of the ideas brought by Puritan settlers who left English port cities like Plymouth and Southampton 400 years ago? Eleanor Barraclough talks to 3 academics whose research helps us answer these questions - Sarah Churchwell, Kathryn Gray and Lauren Working - and we hear contributions from the Wampanoag Advisory Committee who have worked with curators at The Box museum in Plymouth on a touring exhibition.

Professor Sarah Churchwell's books include Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream. She is Director of the Being Human Festival which puts on public events focusing on research taking place at universities across the UK. This year's festival (Nov 12th - 22nd) includes Mayflower related events.

Dr Kathryn Gray from the University of Plymouth has consulted on exhibitions commissioned for
Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America is on tour to SeaCity Museum, Southampton (to 18 October 2020), Guildhall Art Gallery, London (8 January to 14 February 2021) and The Box Plymouth (15 May to 19 July 2021)
Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy runs at The Box Plymouth 29 September 2020 to 18 September 2021

Lauren Working is the author of The Making of an Imperial Polity: Civility and America in the Jacobean Metropolis and works as a researcher on the TIDE project which explores Travel, Transculturality and Identity in England c1550 - 1700.

This episode of Free Thinking is put together in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UKRI as one of a series of discussions focusing on new academic research also available to download as New Thinking episodes on the BBC Arts & Ideas podcast feed. You can find the whole collection here:

You might also be interested in this conversation with Nandini Das and Claudia Rogers on their research into First Encounters:

Producer: Robyn Read

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49 minutes

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