William Bradford Criticism - Essay

G. Cuthbert Blaxland (essay date 1896)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “William Bradford, as Author, Man, and Statesman,” in “Mayflower” Essays on The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, Ward & Downey Ltd., 1896, pp. 100-29.

[In this excerpt, published only a few decades after the discovery of the Bradford manuscript, Blaxland offers one of the earliest scholarly discussions of Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation. Blaxland considers Bradford's style and influences, and attempts to show a deep connection between Bradford the individual and Bradford the historian.]

In the History of Plymouth Plantation we have William Bradford presented to us in the aspect of author, autobiographer, and historian. Of course the...

(The entire section is 5239 words.)

E. F. Bradford (essay date 1928)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Conscious Art in Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation,” in New England Quarterly, Vol. 1, 1928, pp. 133-57.

[In the following essay, the critic discusses the “plain style” of Of Plymouth Plantation, highlighting the techniques the author employed and the literary influences on the work to argue that Bradford's seemingly artless prose was achieved through careful design.]

Those who have hitherto made a detailed critical study of William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation have been for the most part historians whose primary interest, naturally, is rather in what Bradford says than in his manner of saying it. Those who...

(The entire section is 7969 words.)

John Griffith (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Of Plymouth Plantation as a Mercantile Epic,” in Arizona Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3, 1972, pp. 231-42.

[In the essay below, Griffith examines the oppositions between economic and spiritual concerns and between the individual and the community in Bradford's History, characterizing the work as a “mercantile epic” in which the tragic conflicts are presented in economic and commerical terms.]

The era of New Criticism may have exhausted itself in its rapt insistence on treating the literary work as an autonomous artistic construct whose deepest significance is divorced from such externalities as history, psychology, or sociology. But there...

(The entire section is 4257 words.)

David Levin (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “William Bradford: The Value of Puritan Historiography,” in Major Writers of Early American Literature, edited by Everett Emerson, University of Wisconsin Press, 1972, pp. 11-31.

[In this excerpt, Levin considers the relationship between Bradford's Puritanism and his historiography, discussing the author's reconciliation of economic and spiritual goals in his work, and arguing that Bradford's faith encouraged him to study history.]

Famine once we had, wanting corn and bread,
But other things God gave us in the stead,
As fish and ground nuts, to supply our strait,
That we might learn on providence to wait;
And know by bread man lives not in his need,
But by...

(The entire section is 8359 words.)

Kenneth Alan Hovey (essay date 1975)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Theology of History in Of Plymouth Plantation and Its Predecessors,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring 1975, pp. 47-66.

[In the essay below, Hovey explores the theological themes of several early colonial histories in order to demonstrate how Bradford follows, adapts, or abandons those themes in his own history. Hovey considers Bradford's literary technique in addition to his theological concerns to explicate his developments in historiography.]

When William Bradford in “about the year 1630”1 began to write his full scale history of Plymouth Plantation, several carefully written historical relations of the first...

(The entire section is 9148 words.)

Walter P. Wenska (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Bradford's Two Histories: Pattern and Paradigm in Of Plymouth Plantation,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 13, No. 2, Fall 1978, pp. 151-64.

[In the following essay, Wenska stresses that the two volumes of Of Plymouth Plantation present two distinct histories, the first celebrating new beginnings and the second providing a “retrospective search for significant order” and the meaning of history.]

Scarcely twenty years after the discovery of his manuscript history in 1855 and its first publication a year later, William Bradford was acclaimed by Moses Coit Tyler as “the father of American history,” a man whose account of the Plymouth...

(The entire section is 7594 words.)

Perry D. Westbrook (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Of Plimmoth Plantation as a Literary Work,” in William Bradford, Twayne Publishers, 1978, pp. 122-40.

[In this essay, Westbrook surveys Bradford's use of varied prose styles and literary devices, including metaphor and irony.]

Bradford's minor prose and his poetry would receive scant notice, at least as belles-lettres, had they not come from the pen of the man who wrote Of Plimmoth Plantation. Their value lies in what they reveal of their author's mind and in the light they may cast on the values and ideals of early New England. Any assessment of Bradford's literary talents must be made on the basis of his History.


(The entire section is 9539 words.)

David Laurence (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “William Bradford's American Sublime” in PMLA, Vol. 102, No. 1, 1987, pp. 55-65.

[In this essay, Laurence suggests that Bradford's seeming anticipations of both the Romantic concept of the sublime and the unique qualities of American literature help to expand scholarly notions of those literary categories.]

Sometime in 1630 William Bradford, perennial governor of Plymouth Plantation in New England, recorded for posterity the inhospitable, wintry scene on which the pursuit of separatist convictions had landed an obscure company of plain English country folk a decade earlier, in November 1620:

But here I cannot but stay...

(The entire section is 8566 words.)

Jonathan Goldberg (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Bradford's ‘Ancient Members’ and ‘A Case of Buggery … Amongst Them,’” in Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities, Stanford University Press, 1992, pp. 223-246.

[In this excerpt, Goldberg examines Bradford's treatment of sexuality, gender, and race in the process of “inclusion and exclusion” by which he defined the community depicted in Of Plymouth Plantation.]

I move from Landa now to William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation to pursue further these paths of negation and their relation to representations of sodomy. From many perspectives Bradford's text could seem out of place in this discussion, and indeed the introduction...

(The entire section is 9825 words.)

Mark L. Sargent (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “William Bradford's ‘Dialogue’ with History,” in New England Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 3, 1992, pp. 389-421.

[In the following essay, Sargent examines Bradford's fictional dialogues between young men of New England and older colonists from Europe, comparing them to Of Plymouth Plantation. Sargent concludes that the dialogues shed light on Bradford's struggles within the Separatist movement as well as his ambivalence about the colonial project in North America.]

When the manuscript of William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation was shipped to Boston in 1897, Massachusetts Senator George F. Hoar boasted that the commonwealth had recovered one of...

(The entire section is 10663 words.)

Thomas Cartelli (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Transplanting Disorder: The Construction of Misrule in Morton's New English Canaan and Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation” in English Literary Renaissance, Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring 1997, pp. 258-80.

[In this essay, Cartelli examines contrasting accounts written by Thomas Morton and Bradford of the controversy surround a maypole at Morton's Ma-re Mount settlement. Cartelli places the accounts in the context of Puritan debates about festive practices and wider concerns about disorder and misrule.]

In his “Authors Prologue” to New English Canaan (1637), a work devoted to extolling the virtues of, and promoting, that portion of the New...

(The entire section is 10460 words.)

David Read (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Silent Partners: Historical Representation in William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation” in Early American Literature, Vol. 33, No. 3, 1998, pp 291-314.

[In the following essay, Read proposes that Bradford's history is best understood as an early development in economic historiography. Read focuses on differences between the first and second books, noting an emphasis on providential and genealogical history in the first and an emphasis on economics in the second.]

William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation remains both one of the most and one of the least readable texts from early colonial New England. Bradford receives praise for his unusually...

(The entire section is 11636 words.)