Who Is William Bradford?


Quick Answer

William Bradford (1590-1657) was most well known for finding and governing the Plymouth Colony in New England for more than 30 years. He traveled on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact when the ship arrived in Massachusetts in 1620.

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Full Answer

Bradford wrote the two-volume "Of Plymouth Plantation" about Plymouth Colony where he started the economy based on agriculture and the religious community based on tolerance. The private subsistence agriculture that ran the economy was a system whereby Bradford made sure all settlers had land, not just those belonging to the company. He acted as high judge, chief magistrate and treasurer in Plymouth. He also presided over decisions of the general court.

When Bradford was 18 years old, he fled England and arrived in Amsterdam with a group of other separatists who feared persecution in England. He used these teachings to guide him when he arrived in Plymouth over a decade later.

Bradford was married twice, first to 16-year old Dorothy May in Holland in 1613, then to Alice Southworth in Plymouth 10 years later. Dorothy bore him a son named John while Alice mothered William, Mercy and Joseph. Dorothy fell overboard while the Mayflower was docked near Cape Cod and drowned.

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