The Journey to the Mayflower: God's Outlaws and the Invention of Freedom (Paperback)
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An authoritative and immersive history of the far-reaching events in England that led to the sailing of the Mayflower.
2020 brought readers the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower—the ship that took the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World. It is a foundational event in American history, but it began as an English story, which pioneered the idea of religious freedom.
The illegal underground movement of Protestant separatists from Elizabeth I’s Church of England is a story of subterfuge and danger, arrests and interrogations, prison and executions. It starts with Queen Mary’s attempts to burn Protestantism out of England, which created a Protestant underground. Later, when Elizabeth’s Protestant reformation didn’t go far enough, radicals recreated that underground, meeting illegally throughout England, facing prison and death for their crimes. They went into exile in the Netherlands, where they lived in poverty—and finally to the New World.
Historian Stephen Tomkins tells this fascinating story—one that is rarely told as an important piece of English, as well as American, history—that is full of contemporary relevance: religious violence, the threat to national security, freedom of religion, and tolerance of dangerous opinions.
This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the untold story of how the Mayflower came to be launched.
About the Author
Stephen Tomkins is the author of eight books on Christian history, including biographies of William Wilberforce and John Wesley. He is the editor of Reform magazine and was previously deputy editor of Third Way. He has a PhD in church history from the London School of Theology.
“A painstakingly detailed history of the Separatist movement.”
— Publishers Weekly
“A dramatic history of religious intolerance and oppression.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Historian Stephen Tomkins, in his meticulously researched book...brings a new understanding to the 400 years of religious change and the necessity for individual religious freedom and tolerance that is still with us today.”
— World Religion News
“The Journey to the Mayflower is a riveting story; it is impeccably researched history but more than this, it is an account that allows us to trace the essential elements of western democracy and liberalism to the key struggle for religious freedom. Stephen Tomkins’s work reminds us that individual liberty as we understand it today would not have been possible without the experience of those who fought for their freedom to believe. Well written, engaging and entertaining, this book serves as reminder of the importance of upholding religious freedom in our current age”
— Tim Farron MP
“Here is a gripping and informed account of the people and pressures that launched the Mayflower. Stephen Tomkins is a capable historian, but never dull, and a respectful yet critical friend of the early puritans. This is an important chapter in England’s Christian story, and America’s too, very well told.”
— John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church
"This is a rattling good read. Stephen Tomkins conveys the sweep of Reformation history through the hair-raising, sometimes hilarious and often tragic stories of the men and women who suffered or survived it. There’s a startling sense of déjà vu as the reader is confronted with the dedication and vehemence of those who pursued their dream of a perfect church."
— Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York
"As a Mayflower descendant and a religious leader committed to a fervent faith that seeks new pathways to old truths, I find this book enlightening and delightful. It tells the story of those whose courage rekindled a faith made stale by practices and doctrines more material than spiritual: a reminder that we are always reforming, always keeping pace with a Holy Spirit whose work it is to rescue the Church from its inhibiting complacency and misplaced ambition."
— Rev. Dr John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ
"Accessible and guaranteed to give greater insight to our faith. A recommended read for all."
— Christian Marketplace [praise for Stephen Tomkins]
"The sort of book I wish I’d read fifty years ago. Stephen Tomkins provides a context for so much of Western history over the last two millennia. His book explains a lot."
— Terry Jones, star and cowriter of Monty Python [praise for Stephen Tomkins]
"Learned, lively journalist Tomkins, who could not write a dull sentence if he tried, here capsules the global Christian story into a brilliant page-turner that keeps you reading for hours at a time. It is all brisk and clear, all well digested, all thoroughly serious, and all great fun."
— J. I. Packer, Regent College [praise for Stephen Tomkins]