On This day - 21st May

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The 21st of November 1620

The Mayflower was just another cargo ship. Under the captaincy of Christopher Jones it played an integral role in the burgeoning trade between European countries. True, it was a seaworthy vessel — but it was nothing special. Until 1620, that is; when it made a trans-Atlantic journey. With its crew and 102 passengers, many of them Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England, the Mayflower left Southampton in search for America's East Coast. Its passengers formed the Plymouth Colony, helping to lay the foundations for a new, modern country.

The United States Of America owes a degree of debt for its existence to the Pilgrims, and a good part of that to the humble Mayflower .
A cornerstone in America's post-colonial history, the Mayflower is symbolic of America's foundations as a liberal home of the free. Whatever your contemporary view of the world's most pre-eminent superpower, a huge swathe of its culture, European in its inception, was founded by the Pilgrims who made Plymouth, Massachusetts home.

The Mayflower's destination was by the Hudson River, where there was already European settlements at Jamestown , Hampton, Henricus, Newport News and New Bermuda. Blown off course, the Mayflower and its passengers ended up in the more northerly reaches of Cape Cod. Dropping anchor at what became Provincetown, they put their feet on American soil after a 66 day journey, riven with disease and hardship. Some remained on the ship. Tuberculosis, pneumonia and that blight of the mariners, scurvy, would half the Mayflower's population.

On dry land, the Pilgrims foraged for food. Their search for shelter had took them to Native American settlements. It was not long before these wearied and desperate travellers started looting such villages. With one harsh winter, and hunger in their bellies, the Pilgrims set sail again. This time they came ashore at Plymouth, where William Bradford would govern the colony.

Their earlier looting of Native American property would set the tone for European colonisation, sadly reprising the sort of persecution that made the Puritans flee England in the first place.

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