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William Bradford. (1590-1657). William Bradford. Born in Austerfield , Yorkshire, England in 1590. After death of both parents and grandparents, he and his sister Alice went to live with his uncle. Was a sickly child spent time reading the Bible

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William Bradford

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william bradford

William Bradford


william bradford1
William Bradford
  • Born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England in 1590.
  • After death of both parents and grandparents, he and his sister Alice went to live with his uncle.
  • Was a sickly child
    • spent time reading the Bible
  • Became acquainted with the Separatists churches and at age 18 became a member.
  • Fled with other Separatists to Amsterdam in 1608.
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William Bradford
  • 1609: he migrated with the rest of the church to the town of Leiden, Holland, where they remained for eleven years.
  • Married 16-year-old Dorothy May in 1613.
  • Became a silk weaver in Leiden to make ends meet.
  • Was also able to recover some of his father’s estate.
  • Son John born around 1615?
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William Bradford
  • In 1620, he and Dorothy set out on the Mayflower with a group to settle the new world.
    • Left son behind because of harsh circumstances they would face
  • While anchored off the coast of Cape Cod, Dorothy fell overboard and drowned.
  • Bradford was elected governor of Plymouth in April 1621 and was re-elected nearly every year thereafter. 
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William Bradford
  • In 1623, he married the widowed Alice (Carpenter) Southworth
    • had a marriage feast very reminiscent of the "First" Thanksgiving
  • Had three more children, all of which survived to adulthood and married. 
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William Bradford
  • As head of the government of Plymouth:
    • oversaw the courts
    • the colony's finances
    • corresponded with investors and neighbors,
    • formulated policy with regards to foreigners, Indians, and law,
    • had a very active role in the running of the entire colony
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William Bradford
  • Beginning in 1630, he started writing a history of the Plymouth Colony, which is now published under the title Of Plymouth Plantation. 
    • Eyewitness accounts of happenings.
    • Considered to be a trustworthy narrator.
      • Avowed his purpose to write “in a plain style, with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things.”
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William Bradford
  • OPP was not published in Bradford’s lifetime.
    • Passed down through family
      • Consulted by Cotton Mather and other Puritan historians for their writings
    • Lost during Revolutionary War
    • Reappeared nearly a century later in England
    • Published for first time by Massachusetts Historical Society in 1856.
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William Bradford
  • A number of his letters, poems, conferences, and other writings have survived.
  • Bradford was sick all winter of 1656-1657
  • May 8, predicted to his friends and family that he would die, and he did the next day, 9 May 1657, at the age of 68
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William Bradford
  • The Mayflower Compact
    • Earliest document of democracy in America
    • Lays the foundation for direct popular government.
      • Drawn up for the general good by mutual agreement of the majority of the people.
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William Bradford
  • Puritan theology is a key theme in the writings of Bradford.
    • Every happening is a consequence of God’s providence.
    • He makes frequent allusions to Biblical accounts .
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William Bradford
  • Bradford’s history is both factual and fictive
  • He wants his readers to see not so much the way Cape Cod actually looked like but rather how it appeared to a people who compared themselves to the Israelites at the end of their exodus.
  • Read in light of the Pilgrim’s view of themselves as a chosen people, the Mayflower Compact takes on even deeper significance as it is a form of covenant making.
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William Bradford
  • Bradford extols the values of community and points out the pitfalls of personal greed and factionalism.
  • There is no individual her in the work; the hero is God and/or the Pilgrim community.
  • Bradford is not so much presenting a literal account of the landscape and the people that the Pilgrims encountered as he is representing what that experience was like.
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William Bradford
  • Representation is the key term in understanding Bradford’s literary method.
    • He represents or replays, for his readers what he feels was important about coming face to face with a new land.
    • He emphasizes the sense of loss and separation that the community felt when they realized that there was no turning back.
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William Bradford
  • Bradford wrote with several guiding principles in mind.
    • Believed that all events were under Divine Control, so his description of the voyage is a highly selective account of the ways in which God watched over his chosen people.
      • Interprets all events and relates them to the will of God.
        • cites the fact that only one of the Pilgrims died on the voyage whereas several of the scoffers died.
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William Bradford
  • Bradford’s use of language and rhetorical devices is an example of how 17th century historians represented events so as to highlight what they felt was significant about them.
  • Bradford controls his audience’s perception of the event, denying them any edifying or restorative prospect.
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William Bradford
  • Bradford turns the landscape into a metaphor for the desolation confronting a people, who, in the face of God’s omnipotence, are forced to recognize human impotence:
    • “for which ways soever they turned their eye (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects.”
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William Bradford
  • Throughout his history of Plymouth, Bradford employs both Puritan plain style prose and the heightened rhetoric of the sublime to recreate the experience, as Bradford wants people to remember it, of the Pilgrims’ confrontation with the New World.
    • “The place they had thought on was some of those vast unpeople countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for habitation, being devoid of all civil inhabitants, where there are only savage and brutish men which range up and down, like otherwise than the wild beasts of the same.”