William Bradford

By far the most widely remembered Pilgrim is William Bradford. Attracted to the Scrooby Pilgrims as a young Englishman, Bradford went first to Amsterdam and, later, to Leyden with them in the early 1600s. His father having died before Bradford was a year old, he was trained by his uncles to be a farmer. Still, his natural curiosity went beyond matters of crop planting and animal husbandry, and his was an intelligent and inquiring mind. In addition to becoming relatively prosperous as a weaver in Leyden, Bradford took the opportunity to read and educate himself. When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, he was one of the leaders who had helped plan the voyage and negotiate with English businessmen to arrange financial backing for the trip and settlement. For many historians, William Bradford has come to personify the Plymouth colony. A devout Separatist, he also took his place in colonial civil affairs, winning election as the colony’s governor a total of thirty times.

Bradford’s legacy is also that of his massive volume Of Plymouth Plantation. Written between 1630 and 1647, this book discusses virtually every aspect of life in the Pilgrim settlement and colony, from the styles of dress and descriptions of housing to relations with the Native Americans; from matters of theology to descriptions of local plants and animals; and from character sketches of local personalities to discussions of weather and crops. Of Plymouth Plantation remains an invaluable source of information on this early period of colonial life, and most historians point to it as the definitive record of the Pilgrim experience in North America. Barbara Schwarz Wachal See also: Bradford, William; Mayflower Compact; Plymouth; Puritanism; Document: The Mayflower Compact (1620). Bibliography Abrams, Ann Uhry. The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origins. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999. Bartlett, Robert M. The Faith of the Pilgrims: An American Heritage. New York: United Church Press, 1978. Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620 1647: The Complete Text. Notes and introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952. Dillon, Francis. The Pilgrims. New York: Doubleday, 1975. Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking, 2006. Seelye, John D. Memory’s Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Winship, Michael P. Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

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