Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Bradford was the leader of the Pilgrims once they settled in America, and he was the author of a history of Plymouth colony, one of the great works of early American literature.
William Bradford was born in March, 1590 (baptized on March 29), at Austerfield, Yorkshire, England, one of three children and the only son of William Bradford, a yeoman farmer, and Alice Hanson. His father died when he was sixteen months old. Upon his mother’s remarriage when Bradford was four, he was put into the custody of his grandfather, after whose death in 1596 he went to live with his uncles, Robert and Thomas Bradford. “Like his ancestors,” William Bradford pursued “the affairs of husbandry.” At age twelve, Bradford started attending religious services conducted by Richard Clyfton, at Babworth, eight miles from Austerfield. The group was made up of Separatists, who believed in the sovereign authority of the Scriptures and the autonomy of each church. The Separatists had spun off from the Puritan movement, which sought reform toward greater simplicity in the worship and practices of the Church of England. When Clyfton’s own congregation split, he took part of the original group to hold services at the bishop’s manor house in Scrooby. William Brewster, who became a mentor and tutor for Bradford, was the local bailiff and postmaster and resided at the bishop’s decaying mansion. John Robinson,...
(The entire section is 2216 words.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
William Bradford, the author of one of the best-known histories of the seventeenth century, was the third child and sole son of a yeoman farmer and a shopkeeper’s daughter. Devoted to reading the Bible from the age of twelve, he joined the Brownists, or Separatists, a group that wished to break from the Church of England. He emigrated with this group to Amsterdam in 1608 and subsequently to Leyden. While in Holland, he became a weaver to maintain himself and learned Dutch and some Latin and Hebrew.
When the Separatists—along with some non-Separatists—sailed for the New World on the Mayflower, Bradford was among them, suffering the enormous physical and mental hardships of the journey. While Bradford and other men explored the coast for a suitable location for settlement, his wife, Dorothy, still on the Mayflower, drowned mysteriously. It is suspected that she committed suicide.
Upon the death of John Carver, Bradford was elected governor of Plymouth when he was thirty-one years old, and he was reelected thirty times; he served many terms unwillingly but, believing so strongly in the venture, was convinced that he could not shirk the duty. In 1627, along with four London merchants and seven other Pilgrims, Bradford assumed the £1,800 debt owed to the original underwriters of the adventure and worked mightily to satisfy the monopolists in London. This debt was finally paid off in 1648.
Although obviously in a...
(The entire section is 429 words.)