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History of Plymouth Plantation

by William Bradford

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What is a summary of chapter one of "History of Plymouth Plantation"?

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The first chapter of History of Plymouth Plantation is an account of how the Reformation proceeded in England. Broadly, Bradford describes the struggle between Catholics, who he calls the "gross darkness of papacy," and what he calls "orthodox and true Christians" that took place across Europe. Focusing on events in England, he claims that Satan himself was at work during the reign of Catholic Queen Mary, who persecuted Protestants. Under Elizabeth, some reforms were instituted, but the Church retained some of the ceremonies (deemed impious by Calvinist-inspired Englishmen) in order, Bradford says, to "win the weak and ignorant." A group, known as Puritans for their desire to "purify" the Church emerged under James I, and these people were persecuted by the established Church of England. So they, as many dissenters had done under Queen Mary, decided in 1607 to leave England and seek asylum in the Netherlands. The crucial underlying theme established in this chapter is that Bradford and others like him believed themselves to be chosen by God, and that all of the trials and tribulations they faced were the work of Satan. Surmounting these challenges would bring the people closer to God.

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