Whose Anniversary? 2020, the Mayflower Pilgrims, and the Impacts of English Settlement

Thursday, April 2, 2020, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Religion


“An American Story,” proclaims the website of Plymouth 400, “A National Legacy.” But whose story is this? And what sort of legacy? As communities on both sides of the Atlantic mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower, this roundtable will discuss the contested meaning of the Plymouth Colony. Did the Pilgrims influence the broader trajectory of New England settlement and religious culture? Do the finer points of English Protestantism matter in light of the conquest and subjection of Wampanoag communities? How should Americans think historically about events that are more commonly used for purposes of commerce, genealogy, and activism?

Session Participants

Chair: Adrian Chastain Weimer, Providence College
Adrian Chastain Weimer is an Associate Professor of History at Providence College. A graduate of Harvard University (2008), she researches colonial America and early modern religion and politics. Her first book, Martyrs' Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (Oxford, 2011) explores how puritans, Baptists, and Quakers imagined themselves within historical narratives of persecution, especially the stories in John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs.” She is currently writing a book on the resistance movements of the 1660s, when puritan colonists creatively worked to protect local institutions from the demands of the newly restored Stuart monarchy. Other interests include toleration and the contributions of religious minorities to colonial American thought and political culture. Recent publications on this topic include “Quakers, Puritans, and the Problem of Godly Loyalty in the Early Restoration,” in The Worlds of William Penn (Rutgers, 2019); “Huguenot Refugees and the Meaning of Charity in Early New England” (Church History, 2017), and “Elizabeth Hooton and the Lived Politics of Toleration in Massachusetts Bay” (William & Mary Quarterly, 2017), which won the Jane Dempsey Douglass Prize. She has also researched colonial religious practices surrounding affliction and trauma. Recent publications in this vein include “From Human Suffering to Divine Friendship: Meat out of the Eater and Devotional Reading in Early New England” (Early American Literature, 2016); "Affliction and the Stony Heart in Early New England," in Puritanism and Emotion in the Early Modern World (Palgrave, 2016); and "Heaven and Heavenly Piety in Colonial American Elegies" inThe Church, the Afterlife, and the Fate of the Soul (Boydell, 2009), which won the Michael Kennedy Prize. Dr. Weimer has contributed essays on Obadiah Holmes and Thomas Gould for the American National Biography, and on "Martyrdom in North America" for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia series. Forthcoming publications include “The Resistance Petitions of 1664-1665: Confronting the Restoration in Massachusetts Bay” (New England Quarterly) and "Colonial Quakers," co-authored with Andrew Murphy, in The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions (Oxford, 2020). Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Young Scholars in American Religion program, and most recently through 2017-2018 National Endowment for the Humanities Long-term Research Fellowships from the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society. In 2018 she was elected into the Society of Fellows of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Panelist: Francis J. Bremer, New England Beginnings
Francis J. Bremer is Professor Emeritus of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Educated at Fordham University (BA, 1968) and Columbia University (MA, 1970; PhD, 1972), he taught at Millersville for thirty-four years. During that time he held visiting appointments at New York University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and Trinity College Dublin. He has received numerous fellowships and awards. Dr. Bremer is also Editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society. He is also Coordinator of New England Beginnings, a partnership of … institutions and … individuals formed to commemorate the cultures that shaped New England on the four hundredth anniversary of the early English settlements. In this capacity he has already organized and promoted a variety of programs dealing with the English and Native cultures of Plymouth. He previously served on the Council of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Dr. Bremer has published numerous articles and sixteen books on puritanism in the Atlantic World, including the award winning John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (2003); Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritans in Three Worlds (2012); and First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in the Atlantic World (2012). His most recent work is Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism (2015). In 2020 Oxford University Press will publish “… one small candle”: The story of the Plymouth puritans and the beginning of English New England. In it he will examine the lay empowerment that shaped Plymouth and American Congregationalism and argue that Plymouth’s religious influence was the key element not only on the shaping of Salem’s church, but on all the churches of early Massachusetts.

Panelist: David J. Silverman, George Washington University
David J. Silverman received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and is currently
Professor of History at George Washington University. In November, 2019, Bloomsbury
will publish his This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony,
and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving. His most recent book is Thundersticks:
Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America (Cambridge, MA: Belknap
Press of Harvard University Press., 2016). He is also the author of Red Brethren: The
Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 2010), and Faith and Boundaries: Colonists, Christianity, and
Community among the Wampanoag Indians of Martha’s Vineyard, 1600-1871 (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), and co-author, with his wife, Julie Fisher, of
Ninigret, the Niantic and Narragansett Sachem: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of
Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 2014). His essays have won major awards from the Omohundro
Institute of Early American History and Culture and the New York Association of

Panelist: John G. Turner, George Mason University
John G. Turner is Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University and the author of several books on American religious history, including The Mormon Jesus: A Biography (Harvard, 2016); Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Harvard, 2012); Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ (North Carolina, 2008). He received a Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the 2018-2019 academic year, during which he is completing The Lord's Free People: The Mayflower Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and the Making of Liberty in Early America, to be published in 2020 by Yale University Press. He is not a known descendant of any Mayflower Pilgrim, including his namesake who signed the Mayflower Compact and then perished with his two sons within the next two months.