PLYMOUTH — Pilgrim Hall Museum, 75 Court St., will host the launch of historian John G. Turner’s new book, “They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony & The Contest for American Liberty (Yale University Press, 202),” at 6:30 p.m. April 4.

Turner presents a complex portrait of early Plymouth, a community often mythologized by the public and overlooked by scholars. Drawing on extensive new research, Turner recasts traditional and counter narratives of Plymouth’s Pilgrim settlers to present a more complex tale of humanity and honor, brutality and betrayal, extraordinary courage and extreme deprivation, faith, fear, violence, and moral compromise.

At the center of They Knew They Were Pilgrims are intellectual, religious, political, and physical

struggles over liberty. The history of Plymouth Colony includes many peoples: English, French,

Dutch, and African; separatist, puritan, Baptist, and Quaker; Sakonnet, Pokanoket, and Nauset. Turner charts shifting and competing ideas about the meaning of religious and political freedom and chronicles contention among individuals and communities over servitude, enslavement, self-determination, obedience, and loyalty.

Adding new detail to the stories of such well-known individuals as Massasoit Ousamequin, Squanto, and gov. William Bradford, Turner also reconstructs the lives of the lesser known: Awashonks, the Sakonnet sachem who preserved her community for decades amid dispossession and war; Shadrach Wilbore, the Taunton town clerk who argued that the royal governor’s taxes were illegal; Humphrey Norton, a Quaker missionary whipped by Plymouth’s magistrates and literally branded with an “H” for heresy in New Haven.

“They Knew They Were Pilgrims” is an American story of freedom and unfreedom, written for Americans of all backgrounds. Mining a wealth of underutilized sources—letters, town records, and other documents—Turner tells familiar history in new ways and with an expanded cast of characters. The Pilgrims emerge as neither heroes nor hypocrites, but instead as real men and women who brought very particular notions of Christian liberty across the Atlantic. Sweeping and authoritative, “They Knew They Were Pilgrims” provides essential context for debates that remain at the heart of American democracy in our own time.

Through the support of Brabo Benefits and Powder Horn Press, sponsors of Pilgrim Hall Museum’s Spring 2020 lecture series, this event is free and open to the public. Guests will be invited to contribute to the restoration of the Bradford-Warwick Patent, the legal agreement negotiated by gov. William Bradford in 1629 to establish Plymouth Colony’s independent status. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for light refreshments; lecture begins at 7 p.m. Seating is limited; reservations are required and accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning March 21 at http://pilgrimhall.org.

For more information about the book launch at Pilgrim Hall Museum, contact donna.curtin@pilgrimhall.org. To arrange an interview with the author, contact

Elizabeth.pelton@yale.edu.