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The Pilgrims were a group of English religious separatists who sailed from Europe to North America in the early 17th century, in search of a home where they could freely practice their religion and live according to their own laws. The various members of the group had broken away from the Church of England, feeling that the Church had not completed the task begun by the Reformation. Under the guidance of the Reverends William Brewster and Richard Clifton, a portion of the group left their home in Scrooby, England and sailed to Amsterdam to escape religious persecution at the hands of their countrymen. They settled in Leiden for 12 years, but by 1617 a poor economy and concern over the Dutch influence on their community convinced many of them to move on, this time to the New World.

Fewer than half of the Congregation's members chose to leave the Netherlands, sailing aboard the Speedwell to Southampton, England, where they joined a larger group of separatists and boarded the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic. They departed on September 16th, 1620, with 102 people aboard, their destination a section of land in the area called Northern Virginia granted by one of the Brewster family friends in the London Company. This grant would have placed them near the Hudson River.

Forced off course by typical North Atlantic weather, the Mayflower arrived in Cape Cod after 65 days at sea, weighing anchor near present-day Provincetown on December 21.
Plymouth Rock
Realizing that it would require a significant additional voyage to reach their goal, the Pilgrims chose to abandon their original plans and form a community where they were. Having no legal authority to colonize the area, they met to sign their own charter, known as the Mayflower Compact, in which they agreed to form a self-governing community.

Although they discovered food and fresh water on Cape Cod, and even made contact with local natives, the Pilgrims eventually settled at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts on the other side of Cape Cod Bay. The longest surviving members of the original group of settlers were Mary Allerton and John Alden.

Pilgrims are commonly portrayed as wearing black and white clothing. In reality, this was uncommon. Although the Pilgrims did indeed seek to stamp out sin within their society, they were not as extreme as they are frequently portrayed. For instance, they allowed drinking (although not drunkenness), they often wore brightly-colored clothing, and did not discourage sex (within marriage, that is).

See also: Pilgrim

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"The Pilgrims" is also the nickname of Plymouth Argyle F.C, an English 2nd Division football (soccer) team.