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Sunday, January 18, 1998 Published at 09:34 GMT


The cradle of US democracy: Scrooby, Notts.
image: [ Back to the roots  in the village of Scrooby ]
Back to the roots in the village of Scrooby

Looking for the cradle of American democracy? Why not try Scrooby in Nottinghamshire?

Scrooby is only a sleepy little village, but for American historians this is the place where some of the guiding principles of the US political and judicial system hail from.

[ image: The house of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrims' leaders]
The house of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrims' leaders
It all started with a group of religious rebels, who met in the early 17th century in Scrooby and nearby villages. Persecuted by the English government for treason and heresy, they fled -- first to Holland, then to the United States.

They were the Pilgrim Fathers, famous for crossing the Atlantic on board the Mayflower and founding one of the first successful English colonies in what later became New England.

Their ideas -- religious puritanism, mistrust of state authority and belief in self-governance -- helped shape the political future of America.

[ image: Chuck Turley wants to encourage Americans to step back in history]
Chuck Turley wants to encourage Americans to step back in history
A group of US researchers is now in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, to retrace the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers and prepare an exhibition on what shaped their beliefs.

Chuck Turley is the director of the Pilgrim Monument and Museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims first set foot on American soil.

He says that most of his fellow Americans have only hazy notions about what these early settlers stood for, and what drove them across the Atlantic. But, Mr Turley says, they should know more than the legend of the first Thanksgiving dinner in America, because this "band of renegades" brought with them "the most defining characteristics of US democracy and government."

Power-sharing. Political checks and balances. Trial by jury. Town-meetings, made famous again during Bill Clinton's last election campaign. Self-governance. The US constitution. All this can be traced back to the way the Pilgrims and other early settlers governed themselves -- and to the "compact" they sealed on board the Mayflower, laying down the rules of their "body politick".

And so, 377 years later, Chuck Turley and his fellow researchers are walking through villages like Austerfield, Babworth, Gainsborough and Scrooby, looking for what is left of the rebels who had to flee Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

[ image: Making friends on the Pilgrims' trail]
Making friends on the Pilgrims' trail
Back home, in Provincetown on Cape Cod, they want to "update" their exhibition on the Pilgrim Fathers, tell the story of what happened before they sailed into an uncertain future in America.

And they are keen to set an example. In the coming years, the museum wants to organise and sponsor visits of Americans to Scrooby, to travel on the Pilgrims' trail and step back in history.


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  Relevant Stories

17 Jan 98 | UK
Why the Pilgrim Fathers left England

17 Jan 98 | UK
The Mayflower Compact

  Internet Links

Pilgrim Monument and Museum, Provincetown

Caleb Johnson's Mayflower Web Pages

Plimoth Plantation - History of the Pilgrim Fathers

Virtual Tour of "Plimoth Plantation"

General Society of Mayflower Descendants

Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth Massachusetts

Mayflower 2000 project

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
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