Lecturer’s Public Talk Explores Local Links to Earliest American Settlers

Darren Oldridge
Professor Darren Oldridge

The University’s Professor of Early Modern History, Darren Oldridge, has been researching local links to one of the most significant figures in that early emigration to the New World - Edward Winslow. Professor Oldridge will be telling Winslow’s story and giving insights into his importance to the success of those first British settlers in a talk at the Cathedral on Tuesday November 23, at 6pm.

Droitwich-born Winslow was one of the Pilgrim Fathers, some of the earliest settlers in what later became the United States of America, who went out on the Mayflower ship in 1620. He was present at what is thought by many to be the first Thanksgiving a year later in 1621. He documented the event, which gave thanks for the settlers’ first successful harvest and has been celebrated by Americans every year since.

Professor Oldridge said: “The celebration of the anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower was a casualty of Covid. In the hope that we are emerging from the pandemic, the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving seems especially apt. It seems fitting to reflect on this historical moment of hope, after tragedy, in Worcester Cathedral.”


Mayflower Pilgrim Fathers stained glass - credit Worcester Cathedral

Winslow grew up in Droitwich, where a statue of him exists today. He was educated as a boy in Worcester, at the King’s School, in the precincts of Worcester Cathedral, and his admission is listed in the 17th century register in the Cathedral library. He then worked in the printing industry in London.

He was one of the Pilgrim Fathers, ardent Protestant separatists who left England to escape persecution from the Church of England. They founded one of the first colonies in New England, and many Americans can trace their ancestry back to these 102 early settlers. 

Professor Oldridge believes Winslow played a potentially key role in the survival of some of those first settlers. “Winslow is a really interesting figure as someone who reached out to the indigenous people of America,” said Professor Oldridge. “He played a very important role in forming the friendship with local tribespeople, upon which the colony’s survival perhaps depended.” He is also a major source for accounts of what happened to them.

Professor Oldridge said, due to his background, Winslow effectively became the publicist for the colony.  He reported the early years of the settlement for readers back in England. This was partly in the hope of encouraging more people to make the voyage and thereby preserve the colony, which had dwindled since its arrival. Winslow also developed friendships with some of the original inhabitants of the region, who were then able to warn him of threats to the colony, such as attacks by other tribes, and also help supply the colony with provisions. 

The talk takes place in the Centre of Learning in the Undercroft, with entrance from College Green.

Tickets cost £5, plus a small booking fee, and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Second image shows stained glass at Worcester Cathedral depicting the Pilgrim Fathers and Edward Winslow and the sailing of the Mayflower to the New World. Image credit: Worcester Cathedral