Mayflower 400, towards 2020

Plymouth has been the starting point for many great voyages of discovery. But few of these are better known or have provided such a lasting international legacy, as the sailing of the Mayflower almost 400 years ago.

Dr Kathryn Gray, the University’s Associate Professor in Early American Literature, explains:

“When the Mayflower left Plymouth harbour in 1620, it was not the first ship to set sail across the Atlantic to North America, and nor was Plymouth Colony the first successful English colony in the New World. And yet, through the signing of the Mayflower Compact, a document that agreed a form of representational government, and the celebration of the first Thanksgiving, the Mayflower voyage and the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony became central to the popular origin narrative of the United States.

The experiences of the Mayflower passengers when they arrived in New England were, at times, harrowing: only half of the settlers survived the first winter, and without the help and resources from local Native American tribes, the Wampanoag in particular, it is unlikely that they would have survived at all. Embedded in this pivotal moment in history are the interconnected stories and experiences of the Pilgrims, the indigenous populations, as well as other migrants to the North America, including slaves.
As we near the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, the many legacies of this well-documented and well-known voyage, some of which are difficult and challenging, will be remembered, examined and debated.”

This story goes beyond the sharing of place names and is celebrated by many in the United States as the beginning of a national legacy and, in the UK, as the foundation of one of the most enduring alliances the world has ever known.
The Mayflower 400 commemorations are therefore an opportunity to celebrate those ties, and build new enduring collaborations and friendships. To steer our future, inspired by the past.

Key date | 16 September 2020 - Embarkation day

Pioneering projects and exciting events

Not only is the University of Plymouth involved with programming the city-wide celebrations for Mayflower 400, but we are also collaborating on a range of exciting events and ambitious projects with partners across the UK and in the US. 

Pioneering initiatives which will ultimately enhance our students’ experience and academic endeavour through teaching and research.

Boost for Mayflower 400 as Plymouth is awarded Cultural Development Funding

A project to build Plymouth’s creative industries and nurture creative people power has been awarded £3.5 million by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The University has partnered with Plymouth City Council, Destination Plymouth, Mayflower 400, Plymouth College of Art and the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) to create iMayflower. The money is part of a £20m Cultural Development Fund for the regions announced by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright.

An additional £750,000 has been awarded to Mayflower 400, giving a boost to creative events and activities planned around the event – iMayflower’s legacy is intended to go well beyond 2020. Read further details in the full report.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (Rachel Nicholls-Lee at Whiskerstay Ltd)

Light Box #2 by Juliet Middleton-Batts


The incredible light-based festival, returned to the historic Royal William Yard on 22–25 November 2018. The festival offered an immersive experience, with projections and light installations set out across the Yard, live performances and interactive opportunities, and formed an integral part of the Mayflower 400 celebrations.
“Light Festivals around the world create wonderfully vibrant and social events for cities and their citizens to enjoy. They are a fantastic display of a city’s creativity and a great, fun, family event that gives people something to look forward to during the dark winter months.” 
Chris Bennewith, Head of the School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Plymouth.

Transatlantic Exchanges Forum

The Transatlantic Exchanges forum brings together scholars working across different disciplines in the field of transatlantic studies. Our aim is to facilitate original research collaborations in this field.

Further information about the forum

Pilgrim Fathers Lecture

Established by the Plymouth Law Society and hosted by the University of Plymouth and Plymouth City Council, the lecture series, which commemorates the Pilgrim Fathers voyage to America in 1620 and embodies the themes of freedom and human rights, has become a celebrated annual event in the legal profession calendar, attracting current and past Lord Chancellors, Lord Justices of Appeal and Lords of Appeal.   

For 2018 Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls was the latest in a long list of distinguished members of the legal profession to present the lecture. The title of the lecture was 'The conflicts of legal pluralism: secular law and religious faith in the United Kingdom'.

Find out more about the series

Study opportunities

If you're a student from the USA thinking of coming to study in Plymouth, you'll find all the essential information you need on our dedicated country guide page. From entry requirements and funding to discovering alumni stories, we've tried to provide all the information you will need if you are thinking about coming to study with us from the United States of America.

The University of Plymouth – an award winning institution

Find out about our latest awards and accreditation and learn about the fantastic achievements of the University, our students and our staff.

Find out more about our awards and accreditations