Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation is generally felt by both U.S. and English historians to be one of the most important volumes of the colonial period in America. The work survived apparently only by the rarest of chances. It was begun in 1630 by Bradford, who was one of the hardy band who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower and who served as governor of that colony for thirty-three years; he completed chapter 10 that same year. Most of the remainder he wrote in pieces through 1646; later, he entered a few items up to 1650.
The manuscript remained in the family, passing first to the governor’s oldest son, Major William Bradford; subsequently to his son, Major John Bradford; and then to his son, Samuel. Meanwhile, it was being borrowed and mined for various other histories of colonial America. While borrowed by Increase Mather, it narrowly escaped being burned when Mather’s house was destroyed in 1676. After numerous uses by other historians, it eventually came to rest in the bishop of London’s library in Fulham Palace, probably taken there by a soldier during the Revolutionary War. There it was found, and the first complete edition of the manuscript was published in 1856.
Long before it was published, much of its contents had passed into American history and myth. Factually, Bradford’s account of the trials and misadventures of the settlers at Plymouth is the fullest and best available. It begins with...
(The entire section is 1296 words.)
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