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Welcome to Episode #188 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

It is Thanksgiving this week here in the US where we take time to intentionally be grateful for what we’ve been given and count our blessings, but it is also the one time of year where the whole nation remembers an event that began during the life of William Shakespeare: the journey of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Not many people realize the story of William Shakespeare overlaps with that of the Pilgrims, due mostly to the fact that the Pilgrims wouldn’t actually set sail from Plymouth until 1620, which is 4 years after the death of William Shakespeare. However, The Puritans were a major part of Shakespeare’s life in England prior to that fateful day in 1620, including Puritans who lived within walking distance of the known residences Shakespeare took up in London. The story of the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and so-called “Strangers” that travelled with them including Miles Standish, William Brewster, and William Bradford, informs our understanding of Shakespeare’s culture and the strong religious tensions that were building up in early 17th century England.. 

As many countries were flocking to the New World and trying to establish colonies there, England, too was placing a mark on the new land with settlements like Jamestown being established under Captain John Smith in 1607. At the same time, the Pilgrims were seeking to go to this New World, but for a decidedly different reason. As a group of religious separatists, as they were known then, they were seeking the right to freedom of religion. The group capitalized on the popular wave of exploration under James I to secure a land patent that allowed them to travel to England and set up a new colony where they could worship, and live, in freedom. Accompanied by the Merchant Adventurers and sanctioned by the Plymouth Colony, the Pilgrims set sail on September 6, 1620. 

Here today to tell us about the history behind the Pilgrim’s journey from England to Plymouth and the realities of that First Thanksgiving are our guests and historians behind the 1620 Experience, 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 :

  • Travelling to the New World during Shakespeare’s lifetime was not as simple as getting on a boat and heading out, because under English law, to go anywhere, you had to have permission from the crown to leave. There were organizations set up to provide this permission and the company that ended up sponsoring the Pilgrims was called, fittingly, Plymouth Company. David and Aaron, how were the Pilgrims able to secure approval from Plymouth Company to sail for New England in the first place? 
  • Often we point to the Pilgrims in our celebrations of Thanksgiving here in the US in acknowledgement of what’s called The First Thanksgiving. William Bradford writes about this harvest feast taking place in November of 1621. Based on these surviving accounts, what do we know about the First Thanksgiving?  Was it a real feast?
  • When they arrived here, were the Pilgrims the first Europeans to settle in this area? 
  • … and more!

The video version of today’s show is now available just for members! Come inside and 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! The video version is only available for members. Sign up today to get immediate access to this episode and all the video versions of our show! 

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Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • Cartouche “Fur traders in Canada,” William Fadden,1777
  • Map of New France,1750: Shows modern political boundaries, depicting French settlements in the New World
  • 17th century illustration of the interaction between Samoset and the Pilgrims
  • 19th century painting depicting Protestant pilgrims on the ship Speedwell departing for the New World
  • Painting of the Mayflower at Sea
  • Image showing conditions for pilgrams and merchant adventurers aboard the Mayflower II
  • Geographical map of New France by Samuel de Champlain, 1612: First map incorporating Champlain’s explorations and cartography up to 1611.
  • “Interview of Samoset with the Pilgrims”, book engraving, 1853
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!)

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