Image of William Bradford


Lifetime: 1590 - 1657 Passed: ≈ 367 years ago


Weaver, Setteler



William Bradford

William Bradford was an English Puritan separatist originally from the West Riding of Yorkshire in Northern England. He moved to Leiden in Holland in order to escape persecution from King James I of England, and then emigrated to the Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact and went on to serve as Governor of the Plymouth Colony intermittently for about 30 years between 1621 and 1657. His journal Of Plymouth Plantation covered the years from 1620 to 1646 in Plymouth.

William Bradford was born to Alice Hanson and William Bradford in Austerfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, and was baptized on 19 March 1589/90. The family possessed a large farm and were considered wealthy and influential. Bradford's grandfather was William Bradforthe, who had at least four children, including Bradford's father, and was probably of noble ancestry, according to researcher George J. Hill.

Bradford's childhood was marked by numerous deaths in the family. He was just over a year old when his father died. His mother remarried when he was four years old, and he was sent to live with his grandfather. His grandfather died two years later, and he returned to live with his mother and stepfather. His mother died a year later, in 1597, and Bradford thus became an orphan at the age of seven and was sent to live with two uncles.

His uncles wanted him to help on the farm, and he later noted in his journal that he suffered at that time from a "long sickness" and was unable to work. He instead turned to reading and became familiar with the Bible and classic works of literature. This is seen by some as a key factor in his intellectual curiosity and his eventual attraction to the Separatist branch of Puritan theology.

Books by William Bradford

Bradford's History of the Plymouth Settlement, 1608-1650  Cover image

Bradford's History of the Plymouth Settlement, 1608-1650

History Memoir
Voyage Pilgrimage America Early Modern Relationships Historical United States

The journal of William Bradford, who served five terms as governor of the Plymouth colony, is an indispensable document of the events of early American history. His eyewitness account includes the stories of the Pilgrims’ sojourn in the Netherlands,...