Cotton Mather wrote of him, “He was a person for study as well as action,” something that might equally be said of Samuel Eliot Morison, who once, interrupted at his desk by the incessant barking of a neighbor’s dog, went outside and shot it.Bradford began writing his history in 1630, the year the Englishman John Winthrop founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Cotton Mather wrote of him, “He was a person for study as well as action,” something that might equally be said of Samuel Eliot Morison, who once, interrupted at his desk by the incessant barking of a neighbor’s dog, went outside and shot it.Bradford began writing his history in 1630, the year the Englishman John Winthrop founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony.Tags: Yale Som EssayLiver Transplantation Doctoral ThesisDissertation LayoutsHarvard Business Plan TemplateEssay National Honor Society EntranceMsc Finance Dissertation TopicsWriting Application Letter For TeachingDegree Essay Marking8th Grade Math HomeworkInteresting Topics For A Research Paper English
Like Morison, he finds most history books written by professors a chore to read.
Trained as a journalist, Philbrick once explained his decision to include a bibliographic essay instead of footnotes or references to works of scholarship in his text: “I wanted to remove the scholarly apparatus that so often gets in the way of the plot in academic history.”Sam Morison never met a footnote he didn’t like, but his relationship to academic history was a complicated one.
Maybe because Bradford’s history ends abruptly, in 1647, most Americans’ sense of what happened to the Pilgrims vaguely trails off, too, sometime after Massasoit, a Wampanoag Indian, taught them to plant corn and joined them for the first Thanksgiving, but long before Plymouth and those same Indians went to war.
In 1675, Massasoit’s son Metacom, called King Philip by the English, launched a war against Plymouth and, eventually, against Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Connecticut, too.
He wrote his history, he said, “in a plain style, with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things.” He might have been describing how he lived his life.
But he was more than plain and simple: he was contemplative.In 1620, Bradford crossed what he called “the vast and furious ocean” on board the Mayflower, a hundred-and-eighty-ton, three-masted, square-rigged merchant vessel, its cramped berths filled with forty other religious dissenters who wanted to separate from the Church of England, and some sixty rather less pious passengers who were in search of nothing so much as adventure.Bradford called these “profane” passengers “Strangers,” but to modern sensibilities they can feel more familiar than, say, William Brewster, who brought along a son named Wrestling, short for “wrestling with God.”The colony that William Bradford helped plant on the windswept western shore of Cape Cod Bay was tiny, and it shrank before it grew; by 1650, its population had not yet reached a thousand. Between 16, he was elected governor every year but five.Besides the sea, Morison wrote about two things especially well: Colonial New England and historical writing.In a 1931 essay called “Those Misunderstood Puritans,” he fought hard against the notion that “the fathers of New England” were “somber kill-joys.” Morison blamed this myth on the Victorians, who cast the Puritans as prudes in order that they might feel, by comparison, broad-minded.“They were, broadly speaking, the Englishmen who had accepted the Reformation without the Renaissance.”Reading Morison, you can almost hear yourself agree with him, even when you don’t. In a twenty-five-cent pamphlet, “History as a Literary Art: An Appeal to Young Historians,” printed in 1946, Morison complained, “American historians, in their eagerness to present facts and their laudable concern to tell the truth, have neglected the literary aspects of their craft.They have forgotten that there is an art of writing history.”They had forgotten, that is, an American literary tradition begun by “the earliest colonial historians” and, above all, by William Bradford, the governor and first chronicler of the Plymouth plantation.Winthrop’s colonists are more commonly called Puritans, because they wanted to purify the Anglican Church, but the Pilgrims were Puritans, too—and “nobody more so,” as Morison once put it.The distinction between Pilgrims and Puritans is a nineteenth-century invention; in truth, their doctrinal differences were slight.Roughly half of it covers Plymouth’s history up until about the time of Bradford’s death; the other half tells the story of King Philip’s War.Of the Pilgrims’ perilous voyage in 1620, Philbrick writes beautifully: “For sixty-five days, the had blundered her way through storms and headwinds, her bottom a shaggy pelt of seaweed and barnacles, her leaky decks spewing salt water onto her passengers’ devoted heads.” But the voyage is nearly over by the end of Chapter 1, if not soon enough for Bradford’s distressed wife, Dorothy, who had left her three-year-old son behind in Holland and who, in sight of land, fell—or more likely threw herself—over the gunwales, and drowned.