Exploration and the Early Settlers

Historical Narratives

If you wanted to know what life was like for someone 400 years ago, where could you get the information? History books could give you a general account, but what if you wanted to know the details of someone’s daily life or what it was like to actually be at an important historical event? In American literature, there are many personal accounts that have been published and passed down through the centuries that give unique perspectives on the events of the past.

Recording the American Experience

Europeans began voyages by ship to the Americas in the late 15th century and reported news of their explorations and settlement. These historical narratives of the survivors

told gripping adventure stories, written down in journals and letters, of the the first Europeans’ experiences of coming to America.

Historical narratives are accounts of real-life historical experiences, written by either a person who experienced those events or someone who studied or observed them. In many cases, the narratives became important historical documents that now exist as our principal record of events. Historical narratives can be divided into two categories:

Primary sources are materials written by people who were either participants in or observers of the events written about. Letters, diaries, journals, speeches, autobiographies, and interviews are all primary sources.

Secondary sources are records of events written by people who were not directly involved in the events. Two typical examples of secondary sources are biographies and histories.

Bringing the Past to Life

Primary sources offer valuable insights into the thinking and culture of a given time period. Use these strategies to bring the information to life:

  • Determine a document’s origin.
  • Try to understand the perspective and motives of the writer.
  • Note sensory details that depict people, places, and events.
  • Identify customs, values, or conditions of the culture or time period.
William Bradford Born ca. 19 March 1590 Austerfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died May 9, 1657 (aged 67) Plymouth Colony

Of Plymouth Plantation