Quarter of Pilgrim Fathers returned home

One-quarter of 17th century pilgrims who sailed to America in their thousands abandoned their new home, a study shows.

Painting by Robert W. Weir of pilgrims on the deck of a ship before their departure for the New World.

The Pilgrim Fathers are traditionally seen as heroic exiles inspired by their faith, who founded the New World.

However, University researchers have found another side to their story.

Fresh findings

Dr Susan Hardman Moore of the School of Divinity has studied the lives of the thousands of colonists who, after arriving in New England, left to return to Britain.

Her findings are recorded in her book Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home.

Reasons for returning

Dr Hardman Moore says the pilgrims returned for a variety of reasons.

These range from new financial opportunities in Britain to the changed religious landscape following the English Civil War.

The findings challenge the perception of the new society in America as the outcome of the pilgrims’ voyage.

The book presents the idea that the voyage was a stage in their journey, not the end.

Documentary evidence

Her book draws on extensive original documents to illustrate the lives of hundreds of migrants.

It explores their motives for setting out for America, their experiences there and their reasons for returning to Britain.

The book came joint second in the Longmans-History Today 2008 Book of the Year Award.

This recognises academic books that are accessible to general readers.