History of Plymouth Plantation Questions and Answers
by William Bradford

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What message is Bradford trying to convey in History of Plymouth Plantation

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Because the Puritan era was already on the wane in 1630 when he began writing Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford wanted to make sure that neither the history of the journey on the Mayflower in 1620, nor the early years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were forgotten by future generations.  

Bradford believed that the Separatists, as they called themselves, were carrying out God's will by leaving England (and the Netherlands, where they had lived for around ten years) and establishing a new Zion in America.  He saw parallels between biblical stories and the trials they faced in Massachusetts and wanted to leave an account to inspire succeeding generations to maintain their beliefs and practices.  

In the journals that informed his narrative, Bradford gave very little credit to the people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their courage, perseverance, or intelligence.  Any positive outcome (i.e., anyone being spared an illness or untimely death) was credited to God, such as the miraculous survival of John Howland, who fell overboard from the Mayflower, and the serious illness Bradford himself suffered in the winter of 1620.

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William Bradford explains his purposes for writing the History of Plymouth Plantation in Chapter 6 of the text. He begins by saying that he recorded the information so that the descendants of the Pilgrims will appreciate the hardships their forefathers faced as they searched for a place to worship their religion freely.

I have been the larger in these things, and so shall crave leave in some like passages following, (though in other things I shall labour to be more contract) that their children may see with what difficulties their fathers wrestled in going through these things in their first beginnings...

In addition to appreciating the hardships of their ancestors, Bradford desired the future inhabitants of Plymouth to know that they did not persevere through these hardships by their own strength alone; rather, God had provided the strength and help they needed to endure every struggle. Thus he described numerous instances in which he believed God had helped them.

and how God brought them along notwithstanding all their weaknesses and infirmities.

Finally, Bradford hoped his detailed record of life in Plymouth could be an example for future people facing similar predicaments.

As also that some use may be made hereof in after times by others in such like weighty employments; and herewith I will end this chapter.

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