Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation


William Bradford

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Themes and Colors
Christianity Theme Icon
Bias and Propaganda Theme Icon
War, Violence, and the State Theme Icon
Native Americans Theme Icon
Debt and Religious Capitalism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Of Plymouth Plantation, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


The central theme of Governor William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation is Christianity—in particular, the English Separatist interpretation of Christianity that, in recent times, is usually referred to as Puritanism (although Bradford considers this term insulting.) Following the rise of a distinctly English (i.e., Anglican) church during the reign of Henry VIII, England began to move away from Catholic ritual and organization, toward a more overtly Protestant set of values, emphasizing simplicity, humility, and hard…

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Bias and Propaganda

Even today, William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation is regarded by historians as one of the most valuable records of early New England history. Bradford penned the journal between 1630 and 1651, meaning that it contains an extraordinary amount of detail about the quality of life in Plymouth Plantation. But Bradford’s journal isn’t just an important document because of what it says about Plymouth—it’s also fascinating because of what it doesn’t say. To understand Of

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War, Violence, and the State

Violence has been called the cornerstone of a successful state. The sociologist Max Weber went so far as to define the state as the institution that claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. One of the most fascinating aspects of Of Plymouth Plantation is the way that Bradford depicts the relationship between violence—directed at Native Americans, neighboring colonies, and even Plymouth Plantation’s own people—and the brand new state that William Bradford and his…

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Native Americans

One of the most remarkable things about Of Plymouth Plantation is the way that William Bradford writes about the Native Americans that the Pilgrims encounter in New England. At times, Bradford voices his admiration for certain specific Native Americans, such as Squanto, who helps the Pilgrims communicate with Native American tribes and guides them through the wilderness. But even so, Bradford repeatedly characterizes the Native Americans as “bloodthirsty,” arguing that they’re “savages” because of…

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Debt and Religious Capitalism

A surprising amount of the “action” in Of Plymouth Plantation revolves around the Pilgrims’ finances. In the late 1610s the Pilgrims form a plan to migrate to the New World, and to fund the trip they make inroads with the Virginia Company of Plymouth (which Bradford often refers to simply as ‘the Virginia Company,” though nowadays it’s usually called the Plymouth Company). The Pilgrims then travel to Plymouth, significantly in debt to the English investors…

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