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2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, a ship that transported a group of English separatists known as the ‘Pilgrims’. Before the Pilgrims set sail to America and founded Plymouth Colony in 1620, they spent twelve years living, working and praying in Leiden, free from religious persecution by the English crown.

Four centuries after this journey, America, England, the Native Nations and the Netherlands will organize an international, inclusive commemoration. It will highlight not only the story of the Pilgrims but the cultures and places they came into contact with as well.

The Commemoration Year 2020 will see many local and international activities and events to focus on the story of the Pilgrims and study it from a range of viewpoints so as to contribute to mutual understanding and critical reflection in order for future generations to be inspired. 

This is why our motto is: One commemoration, 4 nations, a 1000 voices.

The Program

Together with the city and partners abroad, an extensive programme was developed during the past two years based on cultural, scientific, educational, heritage(tourism) and social perspectives.

A few highlights:

Pilgrims to America – and the Limits of Freedom

Friday March 27, 2020

Pilgrims in America, 1620-2020, Boundless liberty? examines the limits of freedom. The exhibition is an account of the extraordinary journey of the Pilgrims early in the 17th century. They start...

First Americans: Honouring indigenous resilience and creativity

Friday May 15, 2020

In May 2020 Museum Volkenkunde will open the exhibition FIRST AMERICANS, showcasing contemporary indigenous lives, art and politics in North America. Consistent with our emphasis on peoples and ...

Official opening event Leiden400

Thursday March 26, 2020

The official opening of the Leiden400 commemorative year coincides with the opening of the exhibit 'Pilgrims to America - 1620-2020, Boundless liberty?' in Museum De Lakenhal, on March 26.

Ancestor Booth

March 19, 2020

Heritage Leiden keeps hundreds of documents on the Pilgrims. In the 'Ancestor Booth' visitors can stand eye to eye with these documents under supervision of a curator and even take a selfie with...

Conference 4-Nation Commemoration: The Pilgrims and the Politics of Memory

August 26, 2020

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. Among the one hundred English “Pilgrims” were the leaders of the colonizing enterprise, including most famously Will...

OUR 400: First Annual Migration History Challenge

February 01, 2020

The international commemoration signalling that the Mayflower disembarked 400 years ago is a once-in-a-lifetime event for all of us, and we have seen intense cooperation among public authorities...

New Light on the Old Colony by Jeremy Bangs


In november 2019 Dr. Jeremy Bangs presented his book New light on the Old Colony. Colonial government, Pilgrims, the New England town, Native land, the background of religious toleration, and th...