Colonial Writers


Life during colonialism in America was very difficult, especially for settlers who were trying to escape persecution, poverty, and even gain religious freedom. Others came as explorers and start business ventures in the new land. The settlers had no experience in preparing for bitter and harsh cold winters as well as living in the rugged wilderness. Most of them encountered many hardships, which made them succumb to diseases and malnutrition. Despite their determination of settling into the great, new land, those who survived had a very difficult life, and most of them died before their time (Anderson 57). Some of the early writers of Colonial Americans, including John Smith, William Bradford, and Anne Bradsheet reflect the hardships faced in the new land, new government and new culture.

In his work A description of New England, John Smith described the circumstances and situations that were experienced in the new world. In his, work Smith printed a lot of maps of the geography surroundings which was used by the immigrants who later found no need for Smith’s help. He was denied money for being a travel guide as hoped and originally planned. However, Smith’s guide did not provide the settlers with any information or background knowledge on the areas of settlements, and the people inhabiting it (Barbour 57). Smith further explored the wildlife plants and other natural features and offered the settlers the idea of the wilderness being a refuge (Smith 22). Despite their hopes for the new world, the settlements became dangerous places for them such that most of them had to experience harsh weather, wild animals and many Indian tribes.

Smith also added that the new world was a place where the believers hoped to be free and start new lives by turning their lives completely to God (34). Despite being a non-believer, Smith was careful on using the ideas of religion and God in the work since it was something valued by the settlers and most of them were able to fight their trials and difficulties through their faith. The settlers also gained the enmity of the local gentry. They were able to deal with Indians more brazenly through threats and other times used force to get corn. Despite the difficulties in the new land, Smith insisted for the place to be called “New England” because its mundane resources and immense potential in fur which the people’s future depended on.

William Bradford’s writing Of Plymouth Plantation presents unique evidence of history that became a foundation of the new nation. Bradford’s document was a nonfiction writing suggesting the first thirty years of the Pilgrims arrival in Mayflower which were difficult. The Pilgrims left England to a new land because of a religious disagreement with the Puritans. The decision of the new settlers of leaving their homeland in search for a new colony was a large extent of the forced decision but not just a dream. The fact that the Pilgrims were religious people gave them support during the trials since the journey of the settlement required courage and the spirit of adventure. Nonetheless, as Bradford witnessed, most of the settlers died of cold and diseases.

Further, Bradford described the first impression of the new land after the arrival of the first settlers in Plymouth. To him, the land was completely savage and that no comfortable conditions were forcing their new settlements from scratch. Also, there were also more trials due to lack of food supply. Nevertheless, the settlers inspired each other to stay through mutual support and unity. Bradford, in his writing, imagined that their future descendants would recollect them in praises and centuries of dignity. He said “Our fathers were English men who came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness, but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice and looked on their adversity, etc.,” (Bradford 57) This gave the new settlers’ hopes despite the trials and challenges which they were facing as they occupied the new land.

After the arrival of the other colonists, a new kind of conflict arose between the settlers as well as the neighboring Indians. The issue of newcomers was their absence of faith and lifestyle that led to inappropriate behaviors. Bradford mentioned that they used to spend their time drinking alcohol and with the Indian women, which encouraged the slave trade (33). Also, the settler’s atheist views were very unpleasant to the locals causing more conflict between them. For instance, in what Bradford referred to as the First Encounter, there was an Indian attack which he explained how they sounded, looked and interacted with the settlers. “But about midnight they heard the hideous and great cry, they concluded it was a company of wolves or such like wild beasts” (56) is an insight the Indians’ response to the invasion of the Pilgrims.

Bradford also narrates of the Pilgrims’ day of life using annals which provided accurate records available to him during that period. Most of his history was written out of nostalgia. This meant that he desired for the past as he used verses from the bible to compare what was happening to the pilgrims as they settled in the new land. Using the Israelites in the Bible, Bradford compared their suffering with that of the Plymouth settlers, “when their time of wandering is over, spiritual principles are settled, and now the Pilgrims must face the spiritual uncertainties of history as they strive to build their own Canaan,” (89). In the Bible, God gave the Israelites power as they dominated Canaan, but after they sinned, God took away their inheritance. Bradford said this in the hope that the separates would overcome their sinful nature so that God would grant them a favor to keep New England as land granted by God to them.

Anne Bradsheet was another Colonial writer whose poems addressed the hardships faced by the early settlers of the Puritan religion, especially the women. During the 17th century, Puritan women expected to be differential and despite Bradsheet’s privileged status of being a close relative to two governors and also her education could not entirely protect her from persecution and scorn that most women who stepped out of their roles faced. Bradsheet slightly wrote about her own experiences as a mother, wife, grandmother, as well as an early settler in colonial America (Bradsheet 11). She narrates about the religion, nature, science, political, and social happenings during that time and also about how she felt about the biases that women were facing.

Bradsheet expressed the stereotypical standards of that time, which indicated that the place of women was attending the family chores and their husband needs especially as they settled in the new lands (21). They were generally considered inferior. She further argues that women not only faced a severe lack of free time but also crushing workloads as well as lack of education. Other women were forced to internalize the belief of inferiority, which the Western Society was trying to push on them from almost every authoritative voice. The extensive education, influential family, and support from friends of Bradsheet enabled her to cope with many of the obstacles.

In her poems, Bradsheet was very interested in relating the difficult life of the early settlers. She provides a unique view of the challenges that she had to encounter along with her fellow colonists. Bradsheet expressed the situations in deep faith and emotions from the difficulties in childbearing, the loss of a house on fire and to the pain of losing her children (72). According to the Puritans, the suffering was one of God’s way to prepare them to accept his grace. However, Bradsheet had difficulty in reconciling with such an idea, and she expressed how she struggled to do everything on God’s will.

In conclusion, compared to the ancient countries, the United States is a relatively young country, yet it seems that the most important events of the past 40 decades have little historical coverage. Very few writings, however, offer a detailed account of the first Pilgrims and Puritans arrival and settling in the new land since survival in their new settlements became their main concern rather than a documentation of their life. The first settlers had to undergo hardships, new beliefs, change of traditions, diseases, hostile climate, and surroundings in their quest for the new land. This makes John Smith, William Bradford and Anne Bradsheet’s writings unique evidence of history that led to the start of a new nation.










Work Cited

Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. “King Philip’s Herds: Indians, colonists, and the problem of livestock in early New England.” Colonial America and the Early Republic. Routledge, 2017. 57-80.

Barbour, Philip L. The Jamestown Voyages under the First Charter, 1606-1609: Documents relating to the Foundation of Jamestown and the History of the Jamestown Colony up to the Departure of Captain John Smith, last President of the Council in Virginia under the First Charter, early in October 1609. Hakluyt Society, 2017.

Bradford, William JA, and William Bradford. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. Rutgers University Press, Bradstreet, Anne. The Works of Anne Bradstreet. Harvard University Press, 1967. 1952.

Bradstreet, Anne. The Works of Anne Bradstreet. Harvard University Press, 1967.

Smith, John. “A description of New England.” (1902).


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