Of Plimoth Plantation: An Overview

Kenneth P. Minkema

The previous portions of the introduction have considered the experience of the Pilgrims as a community and of Bradford individually, as well as that of the Natives in their gradual disenfranchisement and in their recent efforts to proclaim not only their survival but also the legitimacy of their own perspective in the national story. This next section turns to Of Plimoth Plantation itself through a summary of several prominent themes. These themes include Bradford as a historian; his and his fellow colonizers’ perceptions of and increasingly violent encounters with Native Americans; the challenges of defining and enforcing law and conformity; the economic travails that came to occupy so much of the colonists’ attention; relations with their fellow colonists in Massachusetts Bay, and the gradual dissolution of the original group of Scrooby and Leiden members. Then follows a brief relation of the history of the manuscript of OPP, of its travels and previous itinerations. Finally comes a description of the editorial principles used to produce a new transcription and edited version of Bradford’s history, highlighting some of the methods and the discoveries that this new engagement with the manuscript has involved.

some themes in

Of Plimoth Plantation

bradford as historian

Bradford himself calls his work a history, and so scholars, taking him at his word, have considered him as a writer who evinces a philosophy and a theology of history, a historical method, and, in conjunction with his later writings, a “dialogue” with the past about motive, agency, and meaning.1

Manuscript page 47, “Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles . . .”

(Courtesy of the State Library of Massachusetts, Boston, Mass.)

First, we must acknowledge Bradford’s skill as a writer. There are a number of passages we could cite here and that other commentators have highlighted. Among others, his description of the first landing on Cape Cod is memorable. After a long and uncomfortable journey across the Atlantic, Bradford describes how, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed the God of heaven.” He then provides an assessment of their situation, which is a mixture of real and imagined threats:

But here I cannot but stay, and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor people’s present condition; and so I think will the reader too, when he well Considers the same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which went before) they had now no friends to welcome them, nor Inns to entertain, or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies, no houses, or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succour; It is recorded in Scripture as a mercy to the apostle & his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians shewed them no small kindness in refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they met with them (as after will appear) were readier to fill their sides full of arrows than otherwise. And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country, know them to be sharp & violent, & subject to cruel & fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast. Besides what could they see, but a hideous & desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts, & wild men, and what multitudes there might ^be^ of them they knew not; neither could they (as it were) go up to the top of Pisgah, to view from this wilderness, a more goodly country to feed their hopes; for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content, in respect of any outward objects, for summer being done, all things stand upon them with a weatherbeaten face; and the whole country (full of woods & thickets) represented a wild & savage hue; If they looked behind them, there was the mighty Ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar, & gulf, to separate them from all the Civil parts of the world (46–47).

This “weatherbeaten” passage, as literary historian David Laurence has observed, comprises a “topos of American expression,” of “‘American’ too soon,” far ahead of its time.2

If Bradford could write in a dramatic voice, he was also capable of sardonic wit, another talent frequently noted by commentators. He concludes the annal for 1621 with a story of those who excused themselves from working on Christmas day because of tender consciences, only to be discovered by Bradford and the others, who had spent the day laboring, to be playing games in the street; the Governor put a stop to this, saying, “that was against his conscience, that they should play, & others work” (70). His pithy comment on the excuses offered by the rather pitiful would-be revolutionary Reverend John Lyford for his plottings are revelatory of his estimation of the man: “Bad logic for a divine” (121). And his opinion of businessmen in general, the accumulation of decades of wearisome and questionable dealings, comes through in his compiling of scripture texts warning of evil men, and in his telling interpolation: “Psa. 146, “Put not your trust in princes” [(]^much less in merchants^[)], “nor in the son of man, for there is no help in them” (73). We see something similar in his “Some Hebrew words englished,” composed late in life, where, after writing rōkēl, “merchant,” he notes, “of which comes,” rakil, “a talebearer.”

Besides his ability to assume different voices or tones—involved actor, impersonal narrator, moral regulator, judgmental bigot, bemused mediator, frustrated businessman, pious seeker—throughout his narrative, Bradford introduced the voices of many others into his narrative. He privileged primary sources. “But because letters,” he states early on, “are by some wise men counted the best parts of history; I shall shew their grievances hereabout by their own letters, in which the passages of things will be more truly discerned” (28). Bradford does indeed make ample use of correspondence he had in his possession or to which he had access, copying them into his history in whole or in part, sometimes shifting the meaning in what he leaves out. But there is a range of other documents that he employs as well. In the end, besides his citations of classical writers and of contemporary theologians and historians, he gives us nearly a hundred such pieces: correspondence, lists of conditions, petitions, agreements, treaties, declarations, financial accounts, and other original items. All told, approximately one-third of his history is taken up with primary sources.

One way in which Bradford’s voice as a historian manifests itself is in a frequent type of alteration he makes throughout portions of the text. In describing the expedition of December 6, 1620, in which a group of colonists and seamen went out from Mayflower in a shallop to search out “a place for habitation,” Bradford notes that as the boat “got down into the bottom of [Cape Cod] bay,” the Englishmen saw a group of Indians “very busy about something” (carving up a “grampus,” as they later discovered). Bradford continues, “we landed about a league or 2 from them.” But at a later time he reviewed this passage, striking through “we” and inserting “they.” He subsequently makes this sort of alteration, transitioning from the first-person singular or plural to the third person, at least two dozen times, in effect placing his authorial voice at a remove, disassociating himself as a participant in the events he is describing—“I” and “me,” “us,” “we” and “our”—from the company of settlers—“they,” “them,” “their.”3 Indeed, the third person references “they,” “them” and “their” appears hundreds of times in sometimes baffling concentrations in which it is difficult to tell who the subject is.

There are, to be sure, limits to this brand of alteration. First, these changes are concentrated in the text of OPP from the 10th Chapter of Book 1 to the annal for 1631 in Book 2. Marginal comments are left unaltered, though a small number were, or appear to have been, added later by Bradford. Also, we find an exception in the first installment of Book 2, where personal references are allowed to stand: “unto whom myself,” “given me,” and again, in a marginal comment, “Which was this author himself.” Whether Bradford meant consistently to remove all such first-person references is unknown, but the result is a process in which the narrative voice becomes, by turns, intimate and removed.

It is important to point out that this is not the only sort of revision that Bradford made to his text. There are thousands of layered changes that are evident in the manuscript of OPP, with which previous editions have not dealt because the changes were assumed to have been made by Thomas Prince, an eighteenth-century Boston minister who in effect became a caretaker of the manuscript volume. These alterations reflect Bradford’s habit of reviewing and emending his prose over and over. His history famously, curiously, and abruptly ends with the chapter headed “Anno 1647, and 1648,” with nothing further, at least as far as annals. He is depicted as having abandoned his work, perhaps because he had become disillusioned; his central idea had “faltered,” his “vision” had failed.4 While, as we will discuss below, he lamented the dissolution of his beloved church community through death and through financial and geographic mobility, there are hints that he did not entirely forget his history of them. Most obviously, he compiled the list of Mayflower passengers and their descendants, a notable labor in itself. And an examination of the manuscript reveals a multitude of later emendations by Bradford, demonstrating that he at various times re-read the work and made changes.

In addition, we must recognize that Bradford saw his children and descendants, and perhaps the offspring of other “ancient planters,” as his first audience. In the 6th Chapter of Book 1, in which Bradford rehearses the agreements with the London “adventurers” or investors, and their “falling out” about certain conditions, he justifies his attention to details. “I have been the larger in these things,” he writes, “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 wrastled in going through these things, in their first beginnings; and how God brought them along notwithstanding all their weaknesses, & Infirmities” (36). There is both a desire to be memorialized in their progeny’s memory, but also the ever-present pious lesson to attribute all to the guiding hand of Providence.5

Bradford’s focus on the children then broadens: “As also that some use may be made hereof in after-times by others; In such-like weighty Employments.” This indicates that Bradford’s perceived audience was wider than his own family or community. In a time when there was no lack of recommendations of the New World as a place for establishing a colony or a trading post, or for investment,6 Bradford perhaps sought to inject a dose of reality to combat the propaganda. At the beginning of Book 2, he notes his decision to “handle” the “rest of this history” through annals (a popular way of recording accounts during this period, for example of biblical history, along with arranging the past by “decades” and “centuries”), noting “heads of principals things” that “may seem to be profitable to know, or to make use of.” Thus, there is a utilitarian element to Bradford’s purpose; he hopes others will learn from his company’s experience, both the good and the bad of it. He is trying to produce his version of a usable history.

native americans

Up to the point at which the settlement of Plimoth was established on the site of the Native village of Patuxet, incursions into what had been dubbed New England by English explorers had been sporadic and brief. Plimoth was the first permanent European settlement north of the Hudson River and south of the St. Lawrence. It is essential to any reader of OPP to recognize that, at the time that Europeans were beginning to make significant incursions into the region, encounters had too often been defined by violence, theft and kidnapping on the part of European explorers against Natives, followed by horrible decimation caused by the introduction of European diseases. Little wonder, then, if most Natives fled on sight of reconnoitering parties from the Mayflower, or “skulked” around the fringes of their newly built fort, or sought to defend their land and culture through armed resistance, at first with traditional weapons and then, when they had acquired them, with firearms. Other Natives, meanwhile, were willing to try to educate these newcomers about how things were done in the Dawnlands, to contain their spread, and, no doubt, to use the English to their own political advantage.

For their part, most Europeans operated from persistent negative assumptions and stereotypes about Native inhabitants. Bradford in OPP displayed this conventional European blend of demeaning, distrust and fear. Even the occasional respect that Bradford expressed towards Natives—for instance, for their tall and healthy bodies, their gravity, and their kindness—was grudgingly bestowed. Those he called “our” Indians, such as Tisquantum (Squanto), while appreciated as gifts from God to improve the colonists’ welfare, were suspect because they were perceived to be self-serving. Bradford admitted that the settlers perceived the “Jealousy” between their interpreters, Tisquantum and Hobomock, and “made good use of the Emulation [rivalry] that grew between” them (71).

Within these overall perceptions we can also detect a shift in Plimoth’s relation towards Natives. At first, as national founding narratives remind us, they were reliant on individuals such as Tisquantum and Hobomock to teach them how to farm and when and where to fish, and on leaders such as Massasoit Ousamequin, with whom they made a mutual-protection pact—though even here, as we have seen previously in “Of Patuxet,” the colonists sought an advantage in terms. Generally speaking, however, it is true they began in a position of no small dependence on the Natives. But that changed.

The acts that led to the Pequot War of 1637, selectively presented in OPP, constituted a major justification in the colonists’ mind for their reason not to trust the Natives. By the mid-1630s, too, the colonists had consolidated their settlements and holdings, and were on their way to achieving hegemony. An important precedent for establishing dominance was set following this conflict and its bloody conflagration of the Pequot town at the mouth of the Mystic River. Since Plimoth’s troops did not arrive in time to participate, Bradford only mentioned the slaughter in passing, but not before he notoriously dubbed it “a sweet sacrifice” to God, a term derived from the Old Testament to describe Jehovah’s acceptance of the Israelites’ burnt offerings. The precedent concerned the disposition of Native survivors and captives, which was enslavement.7 Some captives were given to various colonies, while others were shipped to the Caribbean. We see the same treatment of Native combatants and their family members, on a larger scale, following King Philip’s War of 1675–76, right down to the intimidating but standard European practice of displaying the head of a slain enemy leader on the town gate.

Only half a dozen years after the Pequot War, fears of a Narragansett “conspiracy” prompted the creation of the United Colonies of New England, to enable a quick and strong response to any perceived Native threats. Through this display of concerted resolution, a conflict was diverted, and a “treaty”—if it can be called that—was imposed on the Narragansetts that put them in a diplomatic straitjacket. With allies like Uncas and the Mohegans under their control, and potential enemies such as the Narragansett and the Pequot broken, the English assumed and acted on their supposed mastery of the region and of its Native peoples. Although time, and a leader named Metacomet, would prove that mastery was not quite as consolidated as they thought, that treaty was a pivotal indicator of relations from that point on.8

nonconformists enforcing conformity

Throughout OPP, Bradford seeks brevity in his narrative, apologizing when he dwells too long on some person or event, declaring his intention to relate only what has not been published elsewhere (as in contemporary accounts by Edward Winslow, the Council for New England, Ferdinando Gorges, or others). So, we can infer that the episodes he does include are chosen carefully. The cast of characters to whom he introduces the reader in the process—the self-important merchant Thomas Weston; the embarrassingly inept conspirators John Lyford and John Oldham (188), the latter dismissed by running a gauntlet of soldiers who all gave him a “thump on the brich” with their muskets (130); the elder John Billington, who committed the first gun-related murder in the colony; the worldly and mysterious aristocrat, crypto-Catholic, and bigamist Christopher Gardiner; the former soldier guilty of war crimes then turned murderer and thief Arthur Peach, and others—are by turns dramatic, comedic, and tragic, illustrative of humanity and, to Bradford’s lights, inhumanity. They comprehend the proud and the haughty, the conniving and the lawless, the hypocritical and the depraved.

While still on board the Mayflower, all of the adult men of the settler group (with the exception of three servants) signed the Mayflower Compact. It was drafted in response to some in the party who asserted they “they would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them, the patent they had being for Virginia” (53). The Compact was meant to create a “Civil body politic,” the leaders of which were empowered to frame “just & equal laws,” to which all would give “due submission and obedience” (54). The dissenters, the persecuted, were now put in the position of defining and maintaining order. This meant, initially, punishing individuals who stole food in the early years, when the colony verged on famine-like conditions and food was strictly rationed (90). But as time went on, law enforcement, and of ensuring the social order, became more expansive, perhaps inevitably. The “godly” and the “grave” were to lord it over the “wicked” and the “lusty.” Of Plimoth Plantation amply illustrates this tension through the characters with which its author inhabited it.

Some scholars have understood Bradford’s presentation of this panoply of sometimes eccentric individuals through the discipline and temperament of typology, that is, as manifestations of biblical types that find their fulfillment in latter-day events and persona.9 This correctly highlights Bradford’s providential view of reality: that God orders all, and the fates of individuals, whether good or ill, is not only God’s judgement upon them but also a lesson for others to observe and take to heart. Other scholars have helpfully pointed to early modern conceptions of the human body as a means of understanding the perspectives of Bradford and his peers in the Separatist group. A puritan such as Bradford conceived that there should be a consistency between the inner and outer “self”; bodily and verbal language—“carriage” and “conversation”—were supposed to reflect an interior purity. In this “self-fashioning,” so characteristic of the early modern period—an Age of Exploration in several senses—the success of keeping one’s soul free from the corruption and vanity of the world was evidenced through pure and “plain” bodies: the way one moved, acted, even dressed.10

One person who clearly did not conform to Bradford’s rule of plainness was Thomas Morton, who came over in 1628 with Captain Wollaston’s group and occupied the Native site of Wessagusset, to the north of Plimoth, in the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Bay. This English contingent was mainly composed, it seems, of indentured servants, for Wollaston soon found it more lucrative to sell their remaining contractual time, if not their lives’ times, to planters in Virginia.11 With Wollaston away, Morton convinced the remaining servants or slaves to revolt and throw in with him to establish an independent settlement where all would be partners. Morton renamed the place “Ma-re Mount” and set up the infamous maypole, which has become a subject of lore and of many a scholarly treatment.12 Bradford narrates approvingly as John Endecott of the Bay comes and puts an end to the shenanigans; but when Morton subsequently sells arms and gunpowder to the Natives, a joint expedition led by Miles Standish subdues Morton and his men. Although he was imprisoned and sent back to England for punishment, Morton would return and continue to be a thorn in the side of the American puritans for some time to come.13

Finally, Bradford’s annal for 1642 is striking for what it contains and what it does not contain. Nothing is said about the tumultuous events occurring in England, as the country lurches towards civil war. A couple chapters earlier, Bradford alludes to some “troubles” arising in the “nation,” and in 1643 he refers to these major developments as “distractions”; but that is about the extent to which he concerns himself with extra-provincial affairs in this regard.14 Instead, most of the chapter for ‘42 is taken up with tales of sexual violence and deviancy. Surprisingly, little attention has been given to these episodes in scholarly literature; such reluctance may date back to OPP’s first editor Charles Deane in the 1850s, who stated that it would have been better if, in addition to the long-missing folio 243 (which contained Massachusetts Bay Governor Richard Bellingham’s description of the sexual assault of two young women by several male servants), the several following leaves containing these accounts had been lost. But these episodes are actually valuable opportunities to learn about sexual behavior in colonial New England, as well as efforts by authorities to define and punish deviancy. To begin, Bradford details a series of inquiries from Massachusetts Bay authorities about the three male servants who forced themselves upon the young women, ejaculating on them but without, so they claimed, penetrating their bodies. How was evidence to be gathered in such cases, and were they to be prosecuted in the same manner as instances of rape or sodomy? Bradford is fairly exhaustive in providing information about the incidents (though he does not name names), even transcribing into the history the answers of several local ministers to questions posed to them about the behavior. Hiding the more explicit actions of the crimes in Latin, Plimoth Colony pastors John Raynor, Ralph Partridge and especially Charles Chauncy try to distinguish anal or vaginal penetration from mere “friction,” condemning both but allowing the difference in terms of punishment as laid out in Scripture and in English common law.

The questions were not entirely without relevance to Plimoth authorities, though their concerns were not so much about heterogenous encounters, whether consensual or nonconsensual, as about same-sex ones.15 In 1637, John Allexander and Thomas Roberts were found guilty “of lude behaviour and uncleane carriage one wth another, by often spending their seed one vpon another”; in 1641, William Kersley was presented for “unclean carriages towards men that he hath lyen wthall”; and the following year, Edward Michell was presented for “lude & sodomiticall practices tending to sodomye wth Edward Preston, and other lude carryages wth Lydia Hatch.” While most of these cases are not explicitly discussed in OPP, they do form an important backdrop, and Preston may well have been the person to whom Bradford referred in OPP as having “made some Sodomitical attempts upon another” (249). Michell and Preston were both whipped, while John Keene, whom Preston had tried to seduce, was made merely to watch, “though in some thing he was faulty.”16 Whipping was of course an awful sentence, but it is important to note that none of these individuals was executed.

But that was not the case with Thomas Granger, a servant of a Duxbury resident (no one less than Love Brewster, Elder William’s son), who was seen committing a bestial act. By his confession at least, he had forced himself sexually on a staggering number and array of animals.17 However mortifying, Bradford provides full disclosure, opining, “the truth of the history requires it” (249). After being forced to watch the slaying of all the animals he polluted, Granger was hung, the only person in the colony to be put to death for a crime other than murder. Those guilty of “buggery,” were, to orthodox eyes, even more inhuman than those attracted to members of the same sex. Their bodies had become as beast-like as the animals they had violated. For his part, Bradford tried to account for how such immorality could arise in Plimoth. First, he blamed servants—by now, as we have seen, a recurrent theme—and secondly, promoters back in England who, for the sake of keeping up their profits, brought “unworthy persons” to New England, to the point that the ungodly increasingly outnumbered the godly. It is clear that, at any given time and despite efforts to define and sustain heterogenous relations as normative, there was a wide range of sexual orientations and practices among colonists. It is rather remarkable to think that so central a text in our national canon as OPP addresses this issue at such length and in such detail, though it is safe to say that very few who have read only excerpts of Bradford’s history are aware of it.

long and tedious business

Bradford begins OPP by placing the Scrooby-Leiden group within a cosmic process manifested in the English Reformation that, he believes, would lead to the eventual triumph of the forces of divine truth. But his story quickly becomes one about business and economics, specifically what is necessary (and, by implication, what should be avoided) in the establishment and running of a colony. As with many ventures of its kind, the Plimoth colony relied on investors to lend them the funds with which to support their journey, from buying and outfitting ships to providing supplies, tools, and other staples that would sustain them once they had reached their destination, until such time as they could raise their own crops and collect resources (furs, lumber, fish, etc.) to send back to England. Many of these investors proved undependable. One dynamic that runs through OPP, therefore, is the colonists’ relations with their funders.

Yet another dynamic is the one between different factions within the settler group. Throughout the history, Bradford uses the terms “general” and “particular” to describe two sorts within the colony’s population: those who partook in the common ownership and working of the land, and those who were independent planters or entrepreneurs. At first, until the time when the common stock was abolished in 1623, nearly all were in the “general.” But within a short time, the London investors began sending over more and more people who were on their own “particular” (100). At least, that was their status on paper: for the general were often expected to support them until they were established, or ended up having to do so because those on their particular proved particularly incompetent. In either case, these were significant drains on the colony’s resources, which made it more difficult and extended the time it took to pay their debts.

Other issues and individuals also caused the colony’s debt to rise instead of diminish. Isaac Allerton was appointed as the colony’s agent in England. While he proved very useful at first, gradually he used his position for his own benefit, mixing goods being shipped to supply the colony with his own, thereby making the colony liable if the goods were lost through storms or piracy (a very real danger, as OPP instances again and again). The head of the London investors, James Sherley, was similarly slippery, refusing to hand over annual accounts and purchasing and commissioning ships to make voyages to New England without the prior approval of the colony’s leaders (an approval they would not have given if asked). Through these and other machinations, the debts of the colony skyrocketed, making it seem as if they would never be able to get out from under them.

In 1627, therefore, eight of the “chief men” of the colony, including Bradford, came to an agreement with the planters to take on the debt of the colony (152). In return, this group “hired the trade” of the whole colony for a space of six years, taking over its boats and other sources of income. (A secret motive was to bring over their remaining congregants from Leiden.) Through these frustrating and drawn-out experiences, Bradford carefully tried to detail things as he and his peers saw them, and how they learned the hard way to be wary of speculators. Using his omnipresent “they” to refer to the colonists and to their leaders, Bradford wryly expressed how “they were both ^now^ taught how to deal in the world, especially with merchants, in such cases.” Here and elsewhere, he described in great detail the proceedings, giving the value of goods sent back to England in pounds, shillings and pence (193), or delving into the economic issues at stake. It was not until 1641 that Sherley agreed to appoint mediators to appraise the inventory of colony and to close the accounts, thereby ending the partnership and freeing Bradford and his fellow “undertakers.”

If there is a weariness on Bradford’s part, there is also a desire, a yearning, for vindication. When recounting the disastrous dealings of Allerton, Bradford goes to some length—clearly, more than he wanted to—to show how the Plimoth settlers were put upon. Those thought to be friends—Allerton, Sherley, Edward Ashley—proved in the end to be tempted by personal gain. To prove his point, in his annal for 1631 Bradford culled from some of Sherley’s letters, “in which,” Bradford opined, “the truth is best manifested” (183). In 1633, the leaders of Plimoth were still dealing with Allerton’s deviousness. Bradford, clearly frustrated recalling it years later, writes:

The special passages of his letters I shall here Insert, as shall be pertinent to these things; for though I am weary of this tedious ^& uncomfortable^ subject, yet for the clearing of the truth, I am compelled to be more large in the opening of these matters; upon which so much trouble hath Ensued, and so many hard censures have passed on both sides. I would not be partial to either, but deliver the truth in all, and as near as I can, In their own words and passages; and so leave it to the Impartial Judgement, of any that shall come to read, or view these things (193–94).

Some commentators have argued that the detouring and devolving of Of Plimoth Plantation into the minutiae of buying and selling, profits and (more often) losses, caused Bradford to “abandon” his history.18 There are aspects of the manuscript itself, and of Bradford’s other writings, discussed below, that complicate this view. While finances clearly weighed on Bradford’s mind, these were never his sole focus, nor were they treated as an end in themselves; there were other concerns.

the people at the bay

Bradford began his history in 1630, when Massachusetts Bay was being settled. To our author, this seemed the fulfillment of many hopes regarding the flourishing of the true church and the furthering of reformation, after many trials and reversals, as laid out in Book 1. Plimoth deacon and physician Samuel Fuller was sent to the people of the Bay to help combat sickness, but in the process he purportedly described Plimoth’s church polity to the leaders there, giving them a basis on which to establish their own congregations. As discussed above in “The Religion of the Pilgrims,” it is a disputed point how much we can credit Fuller and Plimoth’s influence on the form that the Bay churches would take, but for Bradford the incident represented the like-mindedness of the two bodies in furthering true religion. Bradford’s oft-cited celebration, “Thus out of small beginnings,” in which Plimoth’s single candle lit a thousand, revealed his feelings at the time (181). Those feelings did not last, at least at the pitch in which he wrote his emotional apostrophe.

As time went on, there was growing conflict between the two colonies. Despite ongoing and constant expressions of affection and sympathy between the leaders,19 each year seemed to bring a new disjuncture. There was a dispute about the boundary in the area around Seekonk; then a failure by the Bay to help Plimoth protect its outposts up north at its trading post on the Kennebec River, a failure that was exacerbated when members of the Bay proceeded to trade with the occupying French (210); in 1634, Plimoth’s John Alden was held without evidence by the Bay authorities after the encounter with John Hocking at Piscataqua ended with two people, including Hocking himself, dead; after this, the Bay authorities did nothing to prevent settlement of some its people in the Connecticut River Valley, who had a “hankering mind” after the land in the very area where Plimoth had already established a trading post. By 1640 (231), a further boundary dispute over lands in and around the Bay town of Hingham reflected the growing number of differences over land, trade, and other issues.

In virtually every instance, Plimoth either compromised or relented. The Bay rapidly became more populous, more wealthy, and more powerful than Plimoth. Bradford came to sense that his colony, rather than being an equal sharer in the spread of Christianity and of material and real estate gains in the New World, was subservient, an increasingly lesser player. Bay governor John Winthrop summarized the gripes in a letter to Plimoth official Edward Winslow in 1637, signaling his recognition of the issues if not his agreement on their meaning: “1. Our refusal to aid them against the French. 2. Our people’s trading at Kennebec. 3. The injury offered them at Connecticut by those of Windsor, in taking away their land there. 4. Their own poverty, and our ability, which needed not any help from them.”20 The last chapters of Bradford’s account are largely taken up with the formation and decisions of the United Colonies of New England, in which confederation the Bay clearly dominated. Before the close of the century, Plimoth would be subsumed first into the Dominion of New England and then into Massachusetts.

the dissolution of the beloved community

While there are ample expressions of affection throughout OPP—between the London investors and the colonists, between leaders of the Bay and of Plimoth—it is clear that the first love of Bradford and his fellow Pilgrims was their original group of fellow believers that had borne affliction in England and grinding labor in Leiden, only to be split up with an ocean separating them. Bradford’s heart was always with those he left behind. Over time, Bradford and the other Plimoth leaders who were part of the Leiden congregation succeeded in getting some of their compatriots to the New World, but the entire group was never reconstituted. Particularly with the ascendancy of Charles I and Archibishop Laud, some among the London investors were dead set against allowing any more Pilgrims—especially their leader, John Robinson—to migrate, because of the fear that the Pilgrims were radical independent congregationalists, and would control all.

From the start of colonization, loss alternated with gain, though there always seemed to be more of the former than the latter. They suffered terrible losses in the first winter, nearly half of the troop dying of disease. The following spring, the first governor, John Carver, died of an apparent stroke. By 1626, Robinson and the group’s colorful but impulsive supporter, Robert Cushman, were dead (139); Bradford parallels the passing of this couple with that of England’s King James and of the Netherlands’ Grave Maurice. In 1632, the mother church split to accommodate the people in Duxbury. And in 1644, Elder William Brewster, a mainstay of the congregation and their spiritual leader, died, Bradford unable to resist including a hagiography of his friend (in the annal for 1643). In the midst of his recounting of the early trials of these fellow believers, and the communion they achieved, Bradford, on re-reading his work, inserted his lament:

O Sacred bond, whilst Inviolably preserved! how sweet, and precious were the fruits, that flowed from the same? but when this fidelity decayed; then their ruin approached. O that these Ancient members had not died, or been dissipated (If it had been the will of God), or else that this holy care, and constant faithfulness had still lived, and remained with those that Survived, and were in times afterwards added unto them. But (alas) that Subtile Serpent hath slyly wound in himself, under fair pretences, of necessity, and the like; to untwist those sacred bonds, and ties, and as it were Insensibly by degrees to dissolve (or in a great measure) to weaken the same (20a).

Here he bemoans loss of the “sweet communion” of his original group. As time went on, more and more of the first comers passed, which led Bradford to compile, beginning in 1650, the list of Mayflower passengers and their descendants, an act not so much of genealogy but of memory, a memory which for Bradford was sacred but fragile.

Other factors besides human mortality signaled a loss of the “sacred bond,” factors that had to do with the lure of land and opportunity in the New World. The disincentives of communal ownership and labor that characterized the first seven years of settlement prompted a switch to “particular” ownership, a move that Bradford rather unconvincingly tried to pass off as beneficial, bringing in Plato to support his position (96). Persevering through the difficult first years, Plimoth’s slowly growing prosperity led to the settlement of other areas, expanding the geographic base of the colony and de-centering it from Plimoth. By the mid-1630s, the arrival of new colonists to the north and west put grain and cattle in high demand, and Plimoth planters, who had been clearing and planting fields for a decade and importing livestock for nearly a decade, were able to take advantage of this market; as Bradford put it, “many were much enriched” (192). By 1644, some inhabitants of Plimoth, complaining of the “straitness and barrenness” of the place (261)—the relative inaccessibility of the harbor and poor quality of the land—proposed moving to Nauset. That an earthquake struck during the meeting at which the relocation was being discussed was for Bradford providential, as if God was rendering his opinion on the matter. Nonetheless, the town decreased in size and importance, with Bradford likening the settlement to a parent losing its offspring:

And thus was this poor church left, like an ancient mother, grown old, and forsaken of her Children (though not in their affections), yet in regard of their bodily presence, and personal helpfulness; her ancient members being most of them worn away by death; and these of later time, being like children translated into other families, and she like a widow left only to trust in God. Thus she that had made many rich, became herself poor (261).

Note on the Text

history of the manuscript

The work of history, Of Plimoth Plantation, as a physical object, has an interesting story, with pilgrimages of its own, including time spent in the hands of several notable early New England figures; a scholarly story of loss amidst revolution and recovery after nearly a century, involving two transatlantic crossings, and subsequent iterations of the text by several eminent historians of early New England. That story has been fully told elsewhere,21 so a summary will suffice here.

After the author’s passing, the manuscript of OPP (presumably with other writings by Bradford) passed through successive generations of his family, to his son Major William Bradford, then to his grandson Major John Bradford, and then to his great-grandson Samuel Bradford. Through the decades, these or other family members lent the tome to various historians. Nathaniel Morton, Bradford’s nephew, used the work in composing New Englands memoriall, published in 1669, and copied most of the first nine chapters into the Plymouth Church Records, though not with scrupulous accuracy. Other borrowers included Increase Mather, as a resource for his A relation of the troubles which have hapned in New-England, by reason of the Indians there (1677); William Hubbard, for his History of New England (completed in 1683, not published till 1815); Cotton Mather, while writing Magnalia Christi Americana (1703); Samuel Sewall, who apparently perused it for his edification; Thomas Prince, who, at the direction of Bradford’s descendant, retrieved it from Sewall in 1728 to consult it for his Chronological History of New England (1738) and to place it in his “New England Library,” a collection of books and manuscripts he stored in the tower of the Old South Church; and Thomas Hutchinson, for his History of Massachusetts Bay (1764).

After passing from hand to hand for a century and a quarter or more, the volume disappeared, a literary captive, it has long been assumed, of the American Revolution. During the British occupation of Boston, an officers’ riding school used the South Church as a garrison; it may well be that one of the members rummaged through the library and “liberated” the book, convinced that since it told the story of English settlers establishing a colony, it belonged in English hands. Perhaps he brought it back home with him, or committed it to the care of another who brought it over the Atlantic. Whatever story Bradford’s book could tell, its whereabouts was not known, at least by Americans in the wake of the Revolution.

In England, however, the Governor’s book was again being consulted. One scholar to read it was Samuel Wilberforce, who in 1844 published A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, quoting from the account of Plimoth, referring to it as “Fulham MS History” in the Bishop of London’s library. It was not until 1855 that John T. Thornton, an American historian of Massachusetts, saw a copy of Wilberforce’s book, with its tell-tale citation, in a Boston bookshop. This led to the publication of the text in the United States in 1856 under the editorship of Charles Deane in the Massachusetts Historical Society Collections and as a separate volume.

This, in turn, began a period of negotiation, lasting four decades, to have the manuscript repatriated. It was not until 1897 that the object was brought back over the Atlantic by the American ambassador, accompanied by documentation from English authorities. Some of these documents—specifically, an order and a decree from the Consistory Court of the Diocese of London—were tipped into the front of the volume containing OPP, but they are not included here.22 These items, along with a sheaf of repatriation documents, addresses, and declarations, are presented in the 1898 “Commonwealth” edition of Bradford’s history.23

Since the 1850s, many editions of OPP have been issued, but only a select handful are viewed as being authoritative, though not infallible, either for missed or incorrectly transcribed passages, or for awkwardly distributing into appendixes many of the documents that Bradford copied into the main text. Among the editions most frequently cited are the following:

“Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation.” Ed. Charles Deane. In Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society III (4th ser.). Printed separately as History of Plymouth Plantation. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1856. Pp. 1–476.

History of the Plimoth Plantation . . . Now Reproduced in Facsimile from the Original Manuscript. Introduction by John A. Doyle. London: Ward & Downey Ltd.; Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1896.

Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation”: From the Original Manuscript: With a Report of the Proceedings Incident to the Return of the Manuscript to Massachusetts. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., State Printers, 1898.

Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606–1646. Ed. William T. Davis. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1908.

History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647. Ed. Worthington C. Ford. 2 vols., Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1912.

Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647 . . . A New Edition: The Complete Text, with Notes and an Introduction, by Samuel E. Morison. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.

Of Plymouth Plantation: Along with the full text of the Pilgrims’ journals for their first year at Plymouth. Ed. Caleb H. Johnson. Xlibris, 2006.

the manuscript

The Bradford Manuscript, in the collections of the State Library of Massachusetts, is a vellum-bound volume measuring approximately 11.5 x 7.75 inches, containing 290 leaves of hand-made laid rag paper. The text of Of Plimoth Plantation begins on L. 11. Bradford numbers the pages, beginning at that point, though occasionally he mispaginates (such instances are noted in the annotations).

The edited version of OPP presented below is based on a completely new transcription of the original manuscript, the first of its kind, as far as can be ascertained, in over a century. That transcription is very much a product of new technologies that could be brought to bear on a four-hundred-year-old source, which, though available in facsimile (1896) and in semi-literal formats (1856, 1897, 1912), still holds new discoveries. First, a recently made high-resolution color scan of the entire manuscript volume, available at the website of the State Library of Massachusetts (mass.gov/orgs/state-library-of-massachusetts), is a boon for anyone working with Bradford’s text. From that resource, complemented by viewing selected problematic passages in the manuscript itself, a verbatim transcription, within the constraints of typography, was produced. The result is a born-digital resource viewable at the websites of the State Library of Massachusetts, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (colonialsociety.org), and the New England Historic Genealogical Society (americanancestors.org).

When one embarks on transcribing OPP, the overall neatness of the orthography is belied, upon closer examination, by thousands of layered emendations. In 1648, Bradford composed the first of his “Dialogues” and in 1652 the third and last (the second has not survived). Ink and orthographic comparisons of the existing manuscripts of the “Dialogues,” and of the pages of Bradford’s Hebrew lists preceding OPP, with OPP itself show that Bradford made many of the changes to his history in the same ink as that with which he wrote the later manuscripts, especially the “Third Dialogue” of 1652. This work, the remaining fragment of the “First Dialogue,” “[S]ome Hebrew words englished,” and OPP all share the same sorts of emendations, but those changes are for the most part done in the ink in which Bradford wrote the 1652 “Third Dialogue.”

Inks and Orthographic Shifts in Of Plimoth Plantation

ms pages ink description


Dark grey-black


Light brown


Medium brown (1646 insert)


Light to medium brown


Dark brown (later sentence on Brewster)


Light to medium brown


Thin brown-grey


Medium brown


Light to medium brown


Later insert: “O Sacred bond . . .”


Medium brown-grey


Light to medium brown


Light brown

47e (Ch. 10 title)-53c

Brown-grey shading to medium brown

53c (Bk. 2 title)-60c

Dark grey shading to medium brown-grey


Medium brown


Medium brown shading to brown-grey


Medium brown


Brown-grey (deleted passage)25


[Not paginated]


Medium brown

93c (annal for 1623)-102e

Dark to medium brown


Medium brown


Dark brown


Vacillates between medium and dark brown


Dark brown


Medium brown


Medium to dark brown


Light to medium brown


Dark brown (inserted letter)


Medium to dark brown

163d (annal for 1629)-166e

Grey-brown to medium brown


Dark brown (insert on Morton)


Vacillates between medium and light brown


Medium brown


Dark brown (insert on Billington)


Medium brown


Dark brown (insert on Allerton & Friendship)


Medium to dark brown


Medium brown


Dark brown

200v & 201v

Medium brown (insert of Royal Declaration)


Dark brown

203a-242e, 244a-268e

Vacillates between medium and dark brown


Medium brown


Light brown

Interlineations in the early parts of OPP, such as in the 5th and 6th Chapters of Book 1, seem to have been made at or shortly after the original composition. However, especially for latter parts of the work, we can judge with some degree of certainty that Bradford made at least two passes, and likely more, through the text, stretching into the 1650s, up to and perhaps beyond the time he was writing his final “Dialogue.” In this sense, he did not “abandon” his history. Rather, he was continuing the effort to make his text conform to improve his style, or to clarify meaning, or to answer other concerns. Also, we need to consider that his average lagtime for compiling a new annal was more than two decades, though that margin gradually diminished over time. Internal references by Bradford help us chart his progress:

Dating Landmarks in OPP

chapter year written

Book 1, 1[st] Chapter


Book 2, Annal for the Remainder of 1620


Annal for 1621


Annal for 1623


Annal for 1633

before 1650

Annal for 1635

before 1654

Annals for 1643 to 1646


List of “First Beginners”


the transcribed version

In the transcription, available online, the most current standards for digital humanities projects and for documentary editing are employed, including replication of original line lengths, capitalization, and punctuation, and placement of deletions, insertions, marginalia, and the like. Verification of the text involved several rounds of proofreading by the editors, an independent proofreading by Jeremy D. Bangs, and a tandem reading of the manuscript scan versus the transcript. Furthermore, an effort was made, for the first time, to distinguish the several different inks and handwritings present in the manuscript, whether those of Bradford or others. In particular, Bradford (for the most part, though on occasion someone else), in subsequent re-readings of the work, altered the spellings of literally thousands of words and added hundreds of words. In addition, the majority of the underlinings and tildes, and a number of the marginal notations in the manuscript, were either added later by Bradford or possibly by someone else. Comparisons with other handwritings in the manuscript volume, with existing Bradford manuscripts, and with handwriting samples by his descendants and by those known to have had the manuscript in their possession, assisted in this process.

As a result, textual annotations in the transcription are abundant, while in the edited version, in keeping with the goal of making the latter more easily assessible by general readers (and, frankly, to keep the printed edited version within a reasonable length), such annotations have been greatly reduced, though changes and additions that significantly affect the meaning and appearance of the original have been retained. Those wishing to delve more deeply into the intricacies of the layers of changes and additions to OPP should therefore consult the online transcription.

Bradford’s translation of the Bible of choice was the Geneva version, first published in 1560. Only on occasion, and most noticeably in the later chapters, would Bradford resort to the King James version, or blend the two. Quotations of scriptural references in the annotations therefore follow the Geneva translation, unless otherwise noted.

One feature of these later emendations is that many of them are in the inks of the later “Dialogues,” especially the “Third Dialogue” of 1652, and of the first two pages of “[S]ome Hebrew words englished,”26 as seen in the same light grey ink used to revise word spellings and to draw underlinings (though in some cases, especially with such markings in the annals for 1629–1633, the ink resembles that used by Thomas Prince for his cues and verso-side comments). Also, the earlier “First Dialogue” of 1648 shows no instances of a long “s” drawn over a “c” (as in words such as “diverce”), as is frequently seen in OPP, which indicates that such changes are likely from the post-1648 period. Another indication that the changes made to OPP are later than even 1652 is that certain of them are not evident in the “Dialogues.” These include straight vs. curly tildes (though in OPP many of these may be by someone else); retaining the phrase “lining breeches” as opposed to the revised “linen breeches”; the appearance of “shuch” without the first “h” crossed out (1652); and unaltered original spellings of words such as “neclect” or “occation,” often later changed to “neglect” and “occasion” in OPP.

the edited version

The edited version preserves Bradford’s words, in what appears to be their final form. His compositional style consisted largely of what today would be considered incomplete sentences, often though not always succinct, a feature that takes some getting used to for modern readers, but which this edition preserves. Even so, there are some instances in which, in the interest of mere comprehensibility, Bradford’s statements are combined. On the other hand, he made ample use of the semicolon to construct complex sentences that, in the style of the time, allowed the addition of clause after clause. Here, too, the original construction has been largely retained, as has Bradford’s other punctuation throughout, though with some occasional minor adjustments, such as moving commas that precede parentheticals, as was common in early modern script and printing, so that the commas follow the closing parentheses. Speaking of parentheticals, Bradford made ample and eccentric use of them, often serving not as authorial asides but as integral parts of a sentence; even, on occasion, nesting a parenthetical within a parenthetical. These, too, have been preserved for the first time in an edited version of the text. In his own prose, Bradford seems to have reserved use of the colon almost exclusively to abbreviations (Gour:, Ano:, etc.), so this edition follows his lead here as well. In addition, the beginning of a new page of the manuscript is indicated in the main text by the page number in square brackets.

Spelling is regularized, though with some necessary flexibility. British spelling is the default, except where Bradford himself does not follow it. Formal titular and personal nouns are capitalized. Words such as “then” where the proper meaning is “than,” or “on” where it is “one,” or “of” is “off,” or “hear” is “here,” have been silently emended. Also, words that Bradford wrote with an initial “I” or “i” that more correctly start with “E” or “e” have similarly been silently changed. Words for which Bradford seemed to have no end to the variety in which he could spell them, such as “viage,” “vioage,” “vioge” for “voyage,” or “indevor,” “endeaor,” “indeaour” for “endeavour,” are standardized (for all of the variations, consult the online transcript). Likewise with words in which Bradford frequently dropped a letter, e.g., “goverment,” “jurisdition,” “presenly.” One troublesome case in this vein was deciding whether Bradford’s “later” actually was pronounced “latter,” a question that follows from his frequent dropping of the second of double consonants, as in words such as “leter,” “beter,” “maner,” “robed,” etc. Tribal names, individual Native names, and geographic features also present a range of renderings, but these too are spelled in their modern accepted forms.27 One exception to this comes with words that appear to preserve the pronunciation of Bradford’s regional dialect, such as “furder” (further), “cricks” (creeks), “doune” (down), “naither,” or “wrastle,” as well as formal archaicisms such as “burthen.”

Since the great majority of Bradford’s deletions are minor (a repeated word, a false start), in this edited version they are, for the most part, silently omitted; however, deletions deemed to be of import for meaning or compositional process are retained, struck through with a single line (like this). Often, though by no means always, these are accompanied by an interlineated correction. Whether a correction or an outright addition, such interlineations are indicated inside of carets (^like this^). Annotations record whether such deletions and interlineations were added later, and by whom.

Speaking of annotations, for sheer depth, breadth, and length of them, perhaps no edition can beat that produced in two volumes under the leadership of Worthington C. Ford in 1912, enriched by foldouts, maps, portraits, woodcuts, signature facsimilies, and so forth. The costs and logistics in today’s publishing world prohibit such extensive annotative and illustrative materials. However, new and emerging online resources actually offer greater opportunities to access these and other illustrative and textual materials, so readers are encouraged to explore digital versions of this and other legacy versions of OPP. (Though the whiggish, filiopietistic, politically driven, and blatantly racist aspects of these past iterations are sobering reminders of how contextually straitened even the most supposedly impartial presentation of historical sources can be.) In this edition, every effort has been made to provide information (updated where relevant) on references to figures, events, biblical citations (Geneva translation), and other historical phenomena. Also, in the seven decades since the last definitive edition, much work has been done not only on the details of Plimoth Colony but also on its regional, hemispheral, transoceanic, even global contexts, as well as on the nature of Euro-Indian contact, negotiation, and conflict, and so here the annotations attempt to include these new bodies of interpretation. Therefore, while done as economically as possible, the annotations (as well as the introductory materials) attempt to open up new perspectives and avenues of exploration.

Douglas Anderson has helpfully pointed to the print-like features of OPP, including centered chapter headings set off with horizontal rules, framed pages (though Bradford ceased doing this after the first thirteen pages), fractur-like letter renderings (most obviously, of the capital “O”), flourishes and diamond-shaped ornaments, and the like.28 In addition to these characteristics, there are others that Anderson does not mention. One is Bradford’s frequent, though not categorical, use of “u” for “v” and of “v” for a “u” at the beginning of a word, both of which were common orthographic and typographic practices of the time. For ease of reading, this edition modernizes those practices. Another characteristic not discussed is Bradford’s numerous marginal comments. In the version of the bible and in the biblical commentaries that Bradford read, and in the printed histories that he cited, marginalia were standard, so it only follows that in his own history Bradford would emulate those texts that he so admired. This edition, therefore, for the first time retains his marginalia as marginalia.

Another feature of the text is the frequent underlinings, most of only one or two words in length, others going on for several lines. These, too, comprised a feature of textual presentation, whether scribal or typographic, in Bradford’s day, which would be set in italicized type. In their description of these markings, the committee under the direction of Ford stated, “The underscoring of words and sentences in the original was due to Prince and not Bradford, and is not followed in this edition” (xvi).29 Editions since then have followed this precedent. But, based on ink comparisons, we cannot be so categorical. The problem is that while some of these were definitely not made by Bradford, some definitely were, either at the time of original composition or afterwards, and for still others we cannot decisively say whether they are by Bradford or by a subsequent owner or borrower of the manuscript. He tended to underline quotes he provided from his readings, or from Scripture, at or very shortly after original composition. We have already called attention to the similarity of the ink Bradford used in his “Third Dialogue” and elsewhere. Other underlinings, which may not be by him, highlight names, places, dates, and the like, which suggests that a later reader of the manuscript made these marks to identify places and personages that figure in the early settlement period, or to create a chronology, or both. A likely suspect, especially for the underlinings in the annals starting in 1629, is Thomas Prince, who also wrote annotations on the verso sides of OPP in these years, called out by a system of cue signs. Because of this uncertainty, this edition retains all of the underlinings, while noting when they may not have been made by Bradford. Retaining underlinings as such also means that sometimes a visual redundancy occurs, such as a word or passage that is both italicized and underlined, for instance, the name of a ship.

Map of England and the Netherlands, showing journeys of the Pilgrims

Map showing Native tribes of New England and their approximate territories

Map of early English settlements in New England

(Maps on pages 79 and 80 were created by Matthew Spak for the Geography Department’s Geo-Graphics Laboratory at Millersville University, Millersville, Penn., U.S.A.)

Selected Bibliography

a. manuscript sources

[A Descriptive and Historical Account of New England in Verse, ca. 1650.] MS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Special Collections, Bradford Poetry. (Printed in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, ser. 1, vol. 3, 77–84.)

“Of Plimoth Plantation” and “[S]ome Hebrew Words englished.” MS bound volume, State Library of Massachusetts, Special Collections.

“A Dialogue: or the sum of a conference betweene some young men in New England, and some ancient men which came out of Holland and old England, 1648.” MS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Special Collections, Bradford 1648. (Printed in Chronicles, ed. Young [1841]; Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 22, Plymouth Church Records, 1620–1859, Part I [Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1920; and in Old South Leaflets, General series, no. 49 [Boston: Directors of the Old South Work, 1896?].)

“A Dialogue; or, Third conference between some young men born in New England, and some ancient men which came out of Holland and old England: concerning the church and the government thereof, 1652.” MS, Massachusetts Histvorical Society, Special Collections, Bradford 1652. (Printed in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 11:397 ff.; and ed. Charles Deane [Boston: Press of J. Wilson, 1870.)

“Willett Manuscript.” Six poems by Bradford transcribed by John Willett. MS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Special Collections, Bradford. (Printed in The Collected Verse of William Bradford. Ed. Michael G. Runyan [St. Paul, Minn.: John Colet Press, 1974].)

b. printed primary sources

Bangs, Jeremy D. Indian Deeds: Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620–1691. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002.

[Bradford, William, and Edward Winslow.] A relation or journall of the beginning and proceedings of the English plantation setled at Plimoth in New England [Mourts Relation]. London: Printed for Iohn Bellamie, 1622.

President and Council of New England, A Breife Relation. London, 1622.

Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of the Colony of Plymouth, from 1602–1625. Ed. Alexander Young. Boston: C. C. Little & J. Brown, 1841. Pp. 414–58.

The Collected Verse of William Bradford. Ed. Michael G. Runyan. St. Paul, Minn.: John Colet Press, 1974.

Cushman, Robert. A Sermon Preached at Plimmoth in New-England. London: Iohn Bellamie, 1622.

Gorges, Ferdinando. His Province of Maine, including the Brief Relation, the Brief Narrative, His Defence, the Charter Granted to Him, and His letters. Publication of the Prince Society, Vol. II, 3 vols., Boston: Prince Society, 1890.

“Governor William Bradford’s Letter Book.” Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society III (1794): 27–76; rep. Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1906.

Leiden documents relating to the Pilgrim fathers: permission to reside at Leiden and betrothal records: together with parallel documents from the Amsterdam archives. Leiden: Brill, 1920.

Marsden, R. G., ed. “A Letter of William Bradford and Isaac Allerton, 1623.” American Historical Review 8 (Jan. 1903): 294–301.

Meyer, Isidore S. The Hebrew Exercises of Governor William Bradford. Plymouth, Mass.: Pilgrim Society, 1973.

Morton, Nathaniel. New-England memoriall, or, A brief relation of the most memorable and remarkable passages of the providence of God manifested to the planters of New-England in America: with special reference to the first colony thereof, called New-Plymouth. Boston, 1669.

Morton, Thomas. New English Canaan, or New Canaan containing an abstract of New England, composed in three bookes . . . [London:] Printed for Charles Greene; and Amsterdam: Iacob Frederick Stam, 1637.

Of Plymouth Plantation: Along with the full text of the Pilgrims’ journals for their first year at Plymouth. Ed. Caleb H. Johnson. Xlibris, 2006.

Plymouth Church Records, 1620–1859. New York: New England Society of New York, 1920. Vol. I. Introduction by Arthur Lord.

Plymouth Colony’s Private Libraries, as Recorded in Wills and Inventories, 1633–1692. Ed. Jeremy D. Bangs. Leiden: Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, 2016; rev. ed., 2018.

Pratt, Phineas. “Declaration of the Affairs of the English People that First Inhabited New England.” Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections 34 (1857).

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, ed. Frederick Hosmer and David Pulsipher. 12 vols. Boston: W. White, 1855–61.

The Seventeenth-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts, ed. Jeremy D. Bangs. 3 vols., Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999.

Smith, John. Advertisements for the unexperienced planters of New-England. London: John Haviland, 1631.

The Town Records of Eastham During the Time of Plymouth Colony, 1620–1692. Ed. Jeremy D. Bangs. Leiden: Leiden American Pilgrim Museum Foundation, 2014.

The Town Records of Sandwich During the Time of Plymouth Colony, 1620–1692. Ed. Jeremy D. Bangs. Leiden: Leiden American Pilgrim Museum Foundation, 2014.

Winslow, Edward. Good Newes from New England: or A true relation of things very remarkable at the plantation of Plimoth in Nevv-England. London, I. Dawson for William Bladen and Iohn Bellamie, 1624.

Winthrop, John. The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649. Ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.

c. secondary works

Anderson, Douglas. William Bradford’s Books: Of Plimmoth Plantation and the Printed Word. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Anderson, Robert C. The Mayflower Migration: Immigrants to Plymouth Colony, 1620. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2020.

Anderson, Robert C. The Pilgrim Migration: Immigrants to Plymouth Colony, 1620–1633. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004.

Arnold-Lourie, Christine. “Baby Pilgrims, Sturdy Forefathers, and One Hundred Percent Americanism: The Mayflower Tercentenary of 1920.” Massachusetts Historical Review 17 (2015): 35–66.

Ashley, Edward. “Pilgrims in the Wilderness: Community, Modernity, and the Maypole at Merry Mount.” New England Quarterly 50 (June 1977): 255–77.

Bangs, Jeremy D. Strangers and Pilgrims, Travelers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation. Plymouth: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2009.

Bragdon, Kathleen J. Native People of Southern New England, 1500–1650. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Bremer, Francis J. One Small Candle: Plymouth Puritans and the Shaping of English New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Bremer, Francis J. The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1994; rev. ed., 2013.

Bunker, Nick. Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World, A New History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Cave, Alfred A. The Pequot War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996.

Chaplin, Joyce. Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500–1676. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Colacurcio, Michael J. “Advancing the Gospel, Dividing the Church: Design and Vision in Bradford’s Plymouth.” In Godly Letters: The Literature of the American Puritans. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006. Pp. 37–104.

Daily, Robert. “William Bradford’s Vision of History.” American Literature 44 (Jan. 1973): 557–69.

Delbanco, Andrew. The Puritan Ordeal. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Ditmore, Michael. “What Do We Know about the New England Puritans, and When Did We Know It? Twenty-First Century Reconsiderations of William Bradford and John Winthrop.” In American Literature and The New Puritan Studies. Ed. Bryce Traister. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. 191–205.

Donegan, Kathleen. “‘As Dying, Yet Behold We Live’: Catastrophe and Interiority in Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation.” Early American Literature 37 (2002): 9–37.

Donohue, Betty Booth. Bradford’s Indian Book: Being the True Roote & Rise of American Letters as Revealed by the Native Text Embedded in Of Plimoth Plantation. Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2011.

Dugre, Neal T. “Repairing the Breach: Puritan Expansion, Commonwealth Formation, and the Origins of the United Colonies of New England, 1630–1643.” New England Quarterly XCI (Sept. 2018): 382–417.

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