New Books

New recent releases of interest:


Mark Peterson, The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630-1865.


Robert Charles Anderson, Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England. 


Michael P. Winship, Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America.


Lisa Blee and Jean M. O’Brien, Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit.

PathFounders: Women of Plymouth

May 3-December 30, 2019

Opening reception: Thursday, May 2, 2019, 6:00 p.m.

Pilgrim Hall Museum’s 2019 exhibition resets the 400-year story of Plymouth with a focus on the lives and legacies of pathfounding women. Makers, nurturers, leaders, and survivors, they made history, though their stories are often untold.

Who were the women who shaped Plymouth? The women of the Mayflower, immigrants to a new land, keepers of family and tradition, risk takers, and founders of a colony. The Wampanoag women present in their own homeland, growers, culture bearers, and clan leaders who became upholders of a way of life threatened by incursion. The women of every era since in Plymouth’s ongoing 400-year history who impacted family and community through their ideas, actions, and example.


This exhibit is curated by Pilgrim Hall Museum Executive Director Donna D. Curtin and New England Beginnings Guest Scholar Michelle Marchetti Coughlin. Contributors include Linda Coombs of the Wampanoag Tribe Aquinnah Cultural Center and John Kemp, former Associate Director of Colonial Interpretation at Plimoth Plantation.


For more information, see

Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Winslow:

Reconstructing a Life through Material Culture

On March 21historian and author Michelle Marchetti Coughlin delivered a lecture at the Congregational Library and Archives on "Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Winslow: Reconstructing a Life through Material Culture".  The talk can be watched via the Facebook page of the Congregational Library and Archives.

Voyaging through History:

The Meanings of the Mayflower, 1620-2020

Intensive and focused interest in the story of the Mayflower is not a new phenomenon, especially in the United States, where it is the bedrock of the nation's 'origin story'. But the tale of the Pilgrim's voyage has also captured the British imagination - despite, however, its absence from academic studies. There were periods of notable interest in the mid- and then late-19th century; during and following the First and Second World War; and in the last large anniversary in 1970. At both a local and national level, the tale of the Pilgrims' journey across the Atlantic Ocean, and their escape from religious persecution, has proved to have an enduring legacy for individuals, institutions, and communities. A wide and rich range of novels, plays, films, alongside memorials, statues, and curated historical buildings, are testament to the cultural, political and religious significance of the Mayflower.

Drawing on an intensive analysis of these visual, textual, and physical materials, this project will be the first to provide an authoritative and critical analysis of the powerful draw of the Mayflower story in British culture. Acknowledging that the meaning of the Mayflower voyage has altered substantially to suit specific agendas at different points in history, it will also provide a timely lens through which to view the contemporary vogue for historical commemoration. A critical view, across a long chronological range and through a broad thematic scope, will give key insights into the relationship between historical culture and religion, Anglo-American cultural diplomacy, and local tourism and place-making. Academic articles and a landmark monograph will situate the changing meaning of the Mayflower in the larger context of the place of the past in British society. An interdisciplinary conference and subsequent edited journal issue will expand this approach to a broader academic audience. 

Connecting our research with local communities, we will also support and inform both local and national Mayflower 2020 celebrations and projects. Workshops, public debates, oral history interviews, and theatrical performances will encourage public stakeholders to reflect on aspects of the historical retelling of the Mayflower story, advancing a critical perspective on the relevance of the voyage in the present. A website, created and hosted by the University of Exeter Digital Humanities Team (guaranteed for 5 years beyond the project end), and populated with features and a study-guide written by members of the project team and other experts, will give historical context to contemporary interaction with the Mayflower story. It will include an interactive map that will uniquely locate the commemoration of the Mayflower in visual and written content across a long-period of history. Public events at the British Library will also extend the importance of the Mayflower to wider contemporary debates about history and the commemoration of conflict, not just in Britain but the USA and wider world too, while our academic support and oral history interviewing at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton (who are producing a Mayflower musical) will enrich local understanding. 

Combining extensive original academic research with clearly focused public engagement work, this project will thus draw together a rich story in the British past and present to enhance both academic and non-academic understandings of historical culture.

Mayflower 400 UK is an organization that is planning a variety of activities in the United Kingdom, some with the support of the Arts Council England.  Two if these involve the Wampanoag tribe.  In conjunction with Plymouth 400 Inc and the Wampanoag Advisory Council a number of events will focus on the Native dimension of the story.  These include “Wampum: Stories and Shells from Native America” featuring the commissioning of a new wampum belt made by Wampanoag artisans in the US, which will tour museums in the UK; and “Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy,” an exhibition curated in partnership with Wampanoag advisors and shown at The Box, Plymouth. This will bring objects from the National Museum of the American Indian, the Harvard Peabody Museum and Pilgrim Hall to Plymouth for the first time. The exhibition will also be complemented by a series of contemporary art shows addressing themes of identity, migration and colonization.  The full program of Mayflower 400 events can be found at program.

English News

Kathryn Gray at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom is putting together a case to re-print a scholarly edition of Mourt’s Relation (London 1622), and is pleased to say that the Omhundro Institute are interested, so she is working away on that the moment. There’s a rare first edition at Glasgow University which she is working from.  Also, she has been working closely with the curator of a national exhibition, "Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy", which will open in Plymouth in April 2020 and tells a much larger story of colonisation, one that academics easily recognise but perhaps not the one that UK audiences are familiar with.

New and Recent Books on Seventeenth Century New England

Mark Peterson, The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630-1865.


Robert Charles Anderson, Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England. 


Michael P. Winship, Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America.

Lisa Blee and Jean M. O’Brien, Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit.

Rebecca Fraser, The Mayflower

Lisa Brooks, Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War

Christine De Lucia, Memory Lands: King Philip's War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast

Sarah Rivett, Unscripted America: Indigenous Languages and the Origins of a Literary Nation

Work in Progress

Francis Bremer is working on a study of the antecedents and early history of Plymouth focusing on the church and Elder William Brewster.

Barry Cotton, is working on two books: John Cotton: An Intimate Investigation into His Life and Times and Tales of Two Bostons: How Boston UK impacted founding Boston USA

Michelle Marchetti Coughlin is working on two books: The First First Ladies, on the wives of the colonial governors, and one on Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Pelham Winslow and her family. 

Linford Fisher is finishing a book titled American Passages: The Rise and Fall of Indigenous Enslavement in the Atlantic World

Scott Garber is working on a study of law and religion in colonial America

David D. Hall, is working on a comparative history of Reformed-style Protestantism, or "Puritanism," in England and Scotland, c. 1550-1660, and the outflowing of this religious politics into New England. 

David Silverman, No Thanks: The Wampanoags, Plymouth Colony, and Thanksgiving. A 

Mourning Story, a Wampanoag-centered history of Plymouth colony and the Thanksgiving holiday.

Abram Van Engen, The Meaning of America: How the United States Became the City on a Hill.  It is under contract with Yale University Press.  This will be a book on the way Pilgrims and Puritans came to be invoked as a national origin, especially in modern political rhetoric, which will also be a bit about the seventeenth-century context of Winthrop's "Model of Christian Charity."

Adrian Weimer is working on Puritan Resistance: Royal Power and Local Political Activism in Restoration New England

Michael Winship's new book, Hot Protestant's: A History of Puritanism in England and America is forthcoming, from Yale University Press.

Michael McGiffert's Manuscript on Covenant Theology

From his student days at Harvard in the 1940s till his death, Michael McGiffert, was deeply engaged in the question of how puritans understood their relationship with God, expressed by their articulation of a theology focusing on covenants.  While editor of the William & Mary Quarterly he authored a number of article exploring the development of that covenant theology in the sixteenth and seventeenth century Atlantic world.  During his tenure at the Quarterly and into his retirement Mike continued to work on this subject, in the end producing a massive manuscript filled with new insights.  He did not live long enough to bring the work to completion and to whittle it down from 2,797 pages to a publishable length.  Rather than attempt to impose on the manuscript an order that he may not have wished, it was decided to deposit the entire work at the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston, where scholars can consult it. The collection is now available and can be accessed through the Library's OPAC (  The manuscript number is MS5362, or you can search for "McGiffert Covenant." A Finding Aid with a full description of the manuscript should be available soon on the website.  The posting will be noted on this site.

A New Edition of William Bradford's "Of Plimmoth Plantation"

The New England Historic and Genealogical Society and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, under the aegis of New England Beginnings, have joined to fund a new edition of William Bradford's "Of Plimmoth Plantation."  Earlier editions have been criticized for inaccuracies in transcription, misleading presentation of the manuscript contents, and flawed interpretive commentary.  The new edition will include, for the first time, introductory and annotative materials that provide a Native American perspective, as well as commentary by editors who are experts in the history of English and American Puritanism and of early modern Netherlands. As such, the project will take advantage of recent scholarship not only on early New England but on Atlantic, cultural, material, indigenous, and related areas of studies. The result will be a more expansive, deeply contextualized presentation of the classic text.  A multi-national, multi-ethnic team of editors will produce for the first time a born-digital, newly annotated, fully searchable and literal transcription of Bradford's "Of Plimmoth Plantation," including a parallel regularized edition, the author's Hebrew vocabularies that appear at the front of the volume, and prefatory materials relating to the volume's eccentric history.  A print edition will accompany the digital publication.

Fashioning the 17th Century in Boston

New England Beginnings participating scholar Kim Alexander has an interesting entry in the roundtable section of The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History

 Kim discusses the connections between material culture and social history with a focus on John and Hannah Leverett.  See Roundtable: Fashioning the 17th Century in Boston: John and Hannah Leverett

Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas

The Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas (DISA), will be an easy-to-use, powerful, crowd-sourced database of indigenous slaves in the Americas. The hemispheric study of Native American slavery represents cutting-edge research in multi-lingual and multi-national contexts in the Americas. Scholars now estimate that between 2.5 and 5 million Natives were enslaved in the Americas between 1492 and the late nineteenth century – an astonishing number by any measure (even compared to the approximately 12 million Africans who were brought as slaves from Africa in this same time period). DISA will allow researchers to lift names off of the pages of dusty books and put them out into the wider online world where other thousands of historians, researchers, students, tribal members, and families can use the information to reconstruct histories, chart networks, and make connections in ways that have never before been possible.

Podcasts and Videos

Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Winslow:

Reconstructing a Life through Material Culture

On March 21, 2019 historian and author Michelle Marchetti Coughlin delivered a lecture at the Congregational Library and Archives on "Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Winslow: Reconstructing a Life through Material Culture". Penelope Pelham Winslow, a member of the English gentry who was married to Plymouth Colony governor Josiah Winslow, was one of the most powerful women in Plymouth Colony, but she, like most of her female contemporaries, has largely been forgotten. Though she left few surviving documents, she did leave behind a trove of physical evidence--from surviving homes and possessions to archaeological artifacts--that provide great insight into her experiences. They also offer a portal into the world of Plymouth Colony's women.

The lecture can be watched on the Congregational Library and Archive’s Facebook Page.  Like the page and watch the lecture.

Theocracy to Democracy: 375th Anniversary of Branford

Scott Gerber's talk is available here.


New England Puritans and Native Americans

In 1620, Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and established the first European colony in New England. Historians discussed how Puritans and Native Americans are memorialized at this event co-hosted by Suffolk University, New England Beginnings, and the Congregational Library and Archives.  The program was moderated by Bob Allison and featured discussion by David D. Hall, Jean O'Brien,

Lisa Blee, and Marty Blatt.  You can find the video here.

Pilgrims and History Textbooks

Abram Van Engen of Washington University in St. Louis taught a class about how the Pilgrims became part of the United States' founding story in 19th-century history textbooks. He described why early historians and educators emphasized the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony over earlier settlements, such as

Jamestown in Virginia. You can find the video here.

Salem’s Trials: Lessons and Legacy of 1692

On June 10, 2017 Salem State College hosted a symposium on Salem witchcraft to mark the 325th anniversary of the execution of Bridget Bishop.  C-Span filmed and aired the sessions.

Click on the underlinings to access them.

In the opening session, Emerson Baker of Salem State University summarized the many reasons for the witchcraft episode that have been argued in histories of the trials as a way to elucidate the various forces at work at that time.

the second session is a stunning master's class in data mining and contextualization for the surviving documents that make up the historic record, presented by Margo Burns, co-director of the Salem Witch Trials Legal Documents Project.

The third session was a panel discussion of how this chapter of the town's history was employed to make Salem into the "Witch City" of popular imagination today.

Rose Doherty, A Tale of Two Bostons: The History of Boston, England & Boston, New England

Rose Doherty, President of the Partnership of Historic Bostons, one of our partners, discusses that organization and its activities.

Brenton Simmons discusses 2020 and other topics

Brenton Simmons, president and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society talks about the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims and other topics.


Anne Hutchinson: Puritan, Rebel, Founding Mother

Eve LaPlante, biographer of Anne Hutchinson, discusses Hutchinson in a podcast done for the Commonwealth Archives.  Click "take a listen" on the linked page.

Ravishing Affection: Debunking the Myths of the Puritans and Sex

Dr. Francis J. Bremer's October talk at the Old South Meetinghouse is now available online as part of the WGBH Forum Network.  Click the title above.

A History of Puritan Boston

Professor Robert Allison of Suffolk University created a valuable online course on the History of Boston.  In this first part he discusses various aspects of the native and Puritan cultures that shaped the region.

Salem Surprise: Myth Busting about the Witch Trials

Lori Stokes is interviewed about myths about Salem witchcraft as well as other aspects of puritan Massachusetts.

Where and When Does America Begin?

Professor Abram Van Engen of Washington University of St. Louis discusses American origins and the importance of John Winthrop's famous "Christian Charity" sermon and the importance of Winthrop's call for the colonists to be as a "City upon a Hill."

January 03, 2023

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