He was born in Droitwich, Worcestershire, England, on October 18, 1595. In 1617 he removed to Leiden, united with John Robinson's church there, and in 1620 was one of the "pilgrims" who emigrated to New England on the Mayflower and founded the Plymouth colony.
His first wife was Elizabeth (Barker) Winslow, whom he married in May 1618 at Leiden. She accompanied him on the Mayflower, and died soon after their arrival in Plymouth. Also accompanying Winslow were his children, George Soule, a teacher for the children, and Elias Story, a servant. Winslow remarried in May 1621 to Mrs Susannah (---) White, the mother of Peregrine White (1620-1704). This was the first marriage in the New England colonies. Winslow later founded what would become Marshfield in the Plymouth Colony where he lived on an estate he called Careswell.
Winslow was delegated by his associates to treat with the Indians in the vicinity and succeeded in winning the friendship of their chief, Massasoit (c. 1580-1661). He was one of the assistants from 1624 to 1647, except in 1633-1634, 1636-1637 and 1644-1645, when he was governor of the colony. He was also, in 1643, one of the commissioners of the United Colonies of New England. On several occasions he was sent to England to look after the interests of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony, and defend these colonies from the attacks of such men as John Lyford, Thomas Morton and Samuel Gorton. He left on his last mission as the agent of Massachusetts Bay, in October 1646, and spent nine years in England, where he held a minor office under Cromwell, and in 1654, was made a member of the commission appointed to determine the value of certain English ships destroyed by Denmark.
In 1655 he was the chief of the three English commissioners whom Cromwell sent on his expedition against the West Indies to advise with its leaders Admiral Venables and Admiral William Penn, but died near Jamaica on 8 May 1655, and was buried at sea. Winslow's portrait, the only likeness of any of the "Mayflower pilgrims" done from life, is in the gallery of the Pilgrim Society at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
His son Josiah Winslow later served as governor of Plymouth colony.
His writings, though fragmentary, are of the greatest value to the historian of the Plymouth colony. They include:
With William Bradford he also is supposed to have prepared a Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantation settled at Plymouth in New England (1622), which is generally known as Mourt's Relation, owing to its preface having been signed by "G. Mourt."
Some of his writings may be found reprinted in Alexander Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrims (Boston, 1841).
Also see a paper by W. C. Winslow, Governor Edward Winslow, his Place and Part in Plymouth Colony, in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1895 (Washington, 1896)