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Welcome to Episode #170 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

William Bradford is most well known today as the man who served as the second governor of Plymouth Colony, leaving Europe for Virginia in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Prior to this infamous voyage, Bradford was an Englishman whose life overlapped that of William Shakespeare, having been born in Yorkshire, England, when Shakespeare was 26 years old. There’s no evidence to suggest Shakespeare knew Bradford personally, but the life of William Bradford shines a light on a huge aspect of Shakespeare’s life: the presence and subsequent response to religious extremism in England. Queen Elizabeth restored Protestantism to England in 1559, along with requirements that everyone attend Protestant Church services. Many religious groups refused, moving to underground church services that were decidedly illegal in England. One of the people who attended such services was a young William Bradford. Relations with religious groups in England remained a tense tight wire act across two monarchs of Shakespeare’s life, a situation we can see reflected in Shakespeare’s Puritan character named Malvolio in Twelfth Night. The character is publicly humiliated while simultaneously painted as someone with whom we can sympathize. The duality of the character itself is a powerful reflection of the sentiments of England at the start of the 17th century. Efforts like the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 attempted to find a common ground with the Puritans, but peace could not be found, with arrests of religious dissenters increasing under James I and leading ultimately to religious groups, like Bradford and the Pilgrims, leaving England entirely in the early 1600s. 

Here today to help us explore the life of William Bradford, explain the distinction between Puritans and Pilgrims, as well as the reality of religious extremists like the Anabaptists and Scottish Presbyterians, going on in England during Shakespeare’s lifetime is our guests, and direct descendants of William Bradford himself, David and Aaron Bradford.

Join the conversation below.

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DAVID BRADFORD 

David is a 13th generation direct descendant of Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford and a life member with the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Delaware where he currently serves as Governor. Since 2013 in conjunction with American Liberty Tours of West Chester, PA, David has been portraying William Bradford and sharing Bradford’s account of Pilgrim history with senior centers, schools, and historical societies in DE and PA. 

For the past 25 years, Aaron shared a love for history from the Era of Jamestown through the American Civil War at historic sites, educational venues, and in historical films. He is a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association of Interpretation, Interpretive Supervisor with Coastal Heritage Society, interpretive ranger at Colonial Wormsloe, and offers engaging tours and educational programs as Liberty Encounters in Savannah, Georgia, and beyond.

Beginning in 1990, David was founder of a quality management and behavior-based safety training and consulting firm before becoming the Quality & Safety Manager for the prime contractor at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Over the years David has held leadership positions with various Quality, Safety, Home School and Historical organizations and for over 25 years has served as an Elder in the Bible Fellowship Church of Newark.

AARON BRADFORD

Aaron discovered a passion for history as a young child when he learned that he is a direct 14th generation descendant of Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford.  For the past 25 years, Aaron shared a love for history from the Era of Jamestown through the American Civil War at historic sites, educational venues, and in historical films.  After earning a B.A. in History Education from the University of Delaware, Aaron served as an educator and historical interpreter at Pamplin Historical Park near Petersburg, Virginia.  He served as the Education Chair and is the Social Media Assistant for the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Delaware.  He is a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association of Interpretation, Interpretive Supervisor with Coastal Heritage Society, interpretive ranger at Colonial Wormsloe, and offers engaging tours and educational programs as Liberty Encounters in Savannah, Georgia, and beyond.

David and Aaron Bradford are a father and son team. They are 13th and 14th generation descendants respectively of the Plymouth Colony governor William Bradford. They are the historians behind the forthcoming 1620 Experience.

Help the 1620 Experience come to life! Donate to their crowdfunding campaign here.

In this episode, I’ll be asking David & Aaron Bradford about :

  • What was the religion of the Separatists and why did they feel like 16th century Protestant England was not a welcome home for them, when so many of the world’s Protestants were flocking there specifically in this time period?
  • We have mentioned Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Puritans, Pilgrims, Separatists and Non-Separatists. These are a lot of religious terms flying around that seem to have very fine delineations. Were all of these groups considered radical extremists by England’s standards during Shakespeare’s lifetime?
  • Aaron, on the poster for the 1620 Experience you’re wearing an outfit that looks like what we think of as a “Pilgrim” today, but were Pilgrims identifiable on the streets of early 17th century London by the way they dressed? 
  • … and more!

The video version of today’s show is now available free on YouTube and streaming inside the Members Video Library. See David & Aaron in full Pilgrim costume, straight from the set of 1620 Experience, along with Aaron’s authentic 17th century sword named Victory and other history tidbits! 
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Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • Conjectural drawing of William Bradford, 1904, by A.S. Burbank of Plymouth
  • Image depicting Pilgrim exiles in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 20th century
  • Image of a Tyndale Bible
  • Photo of a plaque in memory of the Pilgrim Fathers or Pilgrims, located on a facade of the Pieterskerk in Leiden
Sign up now for just $5/mo (or login here) and all the bonus content will immediately expand right on this page. (You will also get access to all our other patrons-only content, too!)

Books and Resources David and Aaron Bradford Recommend

With historical books, some are available on Amazon and others are harder to find. Where available, I am including the amazon link. When those prices are exorbitant I tried to find you a cheaper alternative available in digital format online and linked those as a sub-note to the book provided here. Most of the titles on this list are in the $8-20 range. You can copy/paste the author’s name and title to do independent research on these suggestions. They are all great titles!

Baker, James. Made in America; The Pilgrim Story and How it Grew

Bangs, Jeremy Dupertuis. Strangers and Pilgrims Travellers and Sojourners; Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation

(I’ve linked to this one on amazon, but it is a $500 book on amazon.  Try to get it at a local library or even a digital copy online. I found this version at Cambridge Library, which you can ask for through interlibrary loan at your local branch.)

Bangs, Jeremy Dupertuis. New Light on the Old Colony; Plymouth, the Dutch Context of Toleration, and Patterns of Pilgrim Commemoration

(I’ve linked to this one on amazon, but it is very expensive. Try to get it at a local library or even a digital copy online. Found a few pages on Google Books)

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647

Bradford, William and Winslow, Edward. Mourt’s Relation

Bremer, Francis J. One Small Candle; The Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England

Bunker, Nick. Making Haste from Babylon; The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World – A New History

Gragg, Rod. The Pilgrim Chronicles; An Eyewitness History of the Pilgrims and the Founding of Plymouth Colony

Jehle, Paul. Journey of Faith; Why the Pilgrims Came

Johnson, Caleb H. The Mayflower and Her Passengers

Johnson, Caleb H. http://mayflowerhistory.com/

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower

Turner, John G. They Knew They Were Pilgrims; Plymouth Colony and the contest for American Liberty

Winslow, Edward. Good News from New England

Help the 1620 Experience come to life! Donate to their crowdfunding campaign here.

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