History of Plimmoth Plantation

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William Bradford (1590—1657) a founder of Plymouth Colony


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Was begun by William Bradford, about ten years after the landing of the Pilgrims. Book I was completed within a year or two, Book II written between 1646 and 1650, and the list of Mayflower passengers added in 1651. The manuscript, probably not intended for publication, came at Bradford's death into the hands of his nephew, Nathaniel Morton, who drew on it heavily for New Englands Memoriall (1669), and it was similarly used by a later owner, Thomas Prince, for his Chronological History of New England (1736), as well as by Thomas Hutchinson as a source of his History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay (1764–67). During the Revolution the manuscript disappeared. Discovered in the library of the Bishop of London (1855), it was returned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The entire work was first published in 1856, although Book I had been printed from the Plymouth church records (1841). In presenting his narrative, Bradford endeavors to go to “the very root and rise of the same,” and the opening book sketches the origin of the Separatist movement, the flight from England to Holland, the settlement at Leiden, the plans for the settlement in New England, and the Mayflower voyage. The second book, which includes the major part of the history, is in the form of annals from 1620 to 1646, and describes every aspect of the life of the Pilgrims. Besides being a primary historical source, the work has artistic value because of its dignified, sonorous style, deriving from the Geneva Bible. The narrative is naturally grave, but it has vigorous qualities and an occasional strain of pithy sarcasm.

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