A card from the game of Count the Anachronisms.
Cleaning pans in a 17th-century kitchen.
Why Leiden, why not?
Recent historians sympathetic to the Pilgrims have given little attention to their life in Leiden. George D. Langdon covered the Leiden period in four pages, Eugene Aubrey Stratton in two. For James and Patricia Deetz, half a dozen sentences sufficed. For Leiden, all authors have relied on a book by Henry Martyn Dexter and Morton Dexter, called The England and Holland of the Pilgrims. Although excellent for the time of publication, it appeared more than a century ago, in 1905. Presenting the results of occasional visits to the Leiden archives from 1865 to 1905, it seems quite thorough. Archival research, however, was ongoing and new information was added, most importantly by Daniel Plooij, who in 1932 published correspondence between Plymouth colonists and Leidenís English Reformed minister, Hugh Goodyear, who represented the Pilgrims in some ongoing legal affairs concerning winding up their Leiden property long after they had left Holland. The wider context of English churches in The Netherlands and the publishing activities of English Puritan exiles in Holland was thoroughly depicted by Keith Sprunger in 1982 and 1994, while the specific publishing project of the Pilgrims under William Brewster was studied and described in 1987 by Ronald Breugelmans. In Leidenís Municipal Archives, Bouke Leverland checked, corrected, and amplified the work of Dexter and Dexter, without however, publishing much. His pencilled marginal notes in the Archiveís copy of The England and Holland of the Pilgrims remained inaccessible to most scholars. [...]
The archival references to Pilgrim life in Leiden cannot be understood without a comprehensive awareness of ordinary daily circumstances during the years of exile. Moreover, in those years, Leiden had become the center of national unrest in theology and politics. In consequence, this book cannot be just about the Pilgrims. To know the Pilgrims, we shall have to become acquainted with Leiden and its history. Further, we must ask not only what the remaining evidence indicates about what happened and why, but we shall need also to know what assumptions tinted the spectacles of historians who before us have thoughtfully looked at this great landscape of the past. To contradict the conclusion that the Pilgrims were singularly insignificant, comments must counter commonplaces; we shall need to examine historiansí axioms, whether Arie van Deursenís Calvinist dogmatism, George Willisonís popular Hegelianism, or John Demosí reliance on Eriksonian conflict psychology.
The Dutch disputes were closely followed by the Netherlandsí most important military and political ally, King James I of England, as well as by his political advisors and by bishops and clergy of the Church of England. Approaching the end of the Twelve Yearsí Truce that had begun in 1609, the Dutch needed and requested English military assistance to help defend against renewed hostilities from the King of Spain. Demanding conformity with his own religious opinions as a condition for military support, King James intervened in the Dutch theological and political disputes in ways that directly affected the Pilgrimsí security and safety in The Netherlands. They chose to leave for the New World. Both Dutch and English investors approached them to participate in schemes for new colonies. The shifting conditions of life in Holland thus extend beyond the mundane details of earning a living in a textile city to the broader issues of doctrinal intolerance, international tension, wars, and competitive efforts at colonization. Re-examining the Pilgrimsí experience in the light of these topics leads to the conclusion that recent Dutch historiography, while completely overlooking any part the Pilgrims played, has more generally failed to comprehend the English role in crucial developments of Dutch national polity.
No history of Plymouth Colony, no history of Leiden, no history of The Netherlands so far explains adequately the Pilgrimsí defining experience in exile. This book undertakes the necessary task of starting over. Leiden is where the character of the Pilgrim Church and its subsequent colony took form. Controversies in politics and religion that forced the Pilgrims to focus their own beliefs, customs of family life and society that determined and constrained their available opportunities, obligations of labor and chances to play, questions of free will, democracy, the separation of church and state, religious toleration, treatment of Indians Ė these form the matter of this book. [...]