In his literary work Of Plymouth Plantation, what role did religion play in William Bradford's ideas, and in how he governed the settlers?
It would be impossible to look at William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation in even the most cursory light and not see the importance of religion. Indeed, Bradford and his roving band of religious nomads believed that God was directing them at every turn: from the days in England when they were at odds with the English government/church to the time spent in Holland, that didn't go much better, and then finally on the trip across the Atlantic where they were even bullied by sailors on the vessel. The arrival on the bleak Massachusetts landscape wasn't exactly what one might picture in the children's books depicting the story, although Bradford would later mention his belief that Squanto had been sent to assist them as a sort of agent of God.
Bradford appears to have been trying to create an objective account of the early days of the colony for posterity to read and understand. Although the role of God, and what he calls "God's good providence" is mentioned frequently, his details and observations suggest the mindset of someone trying to record accurate history. However, his religion informs his opinions enough that there is no doubt as to his beliefs. When describing Roger Williams, who will take his "strange opinions" and found a new colony at Rhode Island, Williams says:
“He is to be pitied and prayed for; and so I shall leave the matter and desire the Lord to show him his errors and reduce him into the way of truth.”