Of Plymouth Plantation

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II. Of Plymouth Plantation: Summary and Commentary

Bradford, William was one of the Pilgrim leaders and American colonial governor, born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England. In 1606 he joined the Separatists, a dissident Protestant sect. Three years later, in search of freedom of worship, he went with them to Holland, where he became an apprentice to a silk manufacturer. Bradford sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, and after his arrival in America he helped found Plymouth Colony. In April 1621 he succeeded Governor John Carver as chief executive of Plymouth Colony. Except for five years, Bradford served as governor almost continuously from 1621 through 1656, having been reelected 30 times. In 1621 he negotiated a treaty with Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag tribe. Under the treaty, which was vital to the maintenance and growth of the colony, Massasoit disavowed Native American claims to the Plymouth area and pledged peace with the colonists. The first Thanksgiving Day celebration in New England was organized by Bradford in 1621. Bradford was a delegate on four occasions to the New England Confederation, of which he was twice elected president. His History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, was published in 1856, 200 years after his death. The book is an important source of information about the early settlers.

Of Plymouth Plantation is an excellent foundation text for the study of colonial American literature. Bradford's text seems to have created something that would provide the foundation both for a new country and a nascent New World identity. Like the journal writers of the period, Bradford records details of early obstacles and colonial life; even more that other historians, however, Bradford develops in Of Plymouth Plantation a large sense of meaning and importance of colonial history. Creating an awareness of history while the colonists were yet engaged in the process of establishing their society gave colonial America a cultural foundation. In...
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