Reforming People : Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England.

In this revelatory account of the people who founded the New England colonies, historian David D. Hall compares the reforms they enacted with those attempted in England during the period of the English Revolution. Bringing with them a deep fear of arbitrary, unlimited authority, these settlers based...

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Main Author: Hall, David D.
Format: Book Electronic
Published: Chapel Hill : The University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
Online Access:Connect to eBook (Available to people from CARLI member institutions.)
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Review by Booklist Review

Today, Puritan is often used as a pejorative term indicating a dour, rigid, ultraconservative person. As Hall illustrates, the Puritans who molded seventeenth-century New England culture were certainly not conservative but were intent on constructing a radically unique society. Hall is a professor of church history at the Harvard Divinity School. His book has a narrow focus, concentrating on the 20 years between 1630 and 1650. For most of that time, Puritans in Britain were prevented from freely reforming British society. In the virgin soil of New England, they decentralized and loosened church authority, limited the ability of the secular arm to abuse citizens, and eliminated aristocratic privileges taken for granted in Britain. Hall wisely resists the temptation to view Puritans as democratic reformers, since scripture, not popular will, remained the basis of authority. Still, he asserts that these pre-liberal reforms led to the democratic changes in the following two centuries. This book presents a well-argued thesis that will be of value to both specialists and well-informed general readers.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In the popular imagination, the New England Puritans are often portrayed as dour and authoritarian individuals out to quash social liberties and enforce conformity to particular religious principles. Hall's captivating study of American Puritanism between 1630 and 1650 challenges this view and offers instead a portrait of a group of people deeply engaged in fostering vital alliances between civil government and ecclesial government. Drawing deeply on colonial records, the Harvard historian demonstrates that the Puritan colonists asked questions about who should have the vote and what kind of rulers they wanted, how the inheritance of property should be arranged, what role the civil state should play in religion, and how land should be distributed. He shows that the colonists, in contrast to their contemporaries in England, were ambitious to restore the religious practice of the earliest Christian communities, the Congregational Way. Hall's first-rate book offers a glimpse of a small slice of American religious history, challenging prevailing ideas about the nature of reform in Puritan New England. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Long an eminent scholar of New England Puritanism, Hall (Bartlett Professor of New England Church History, Harvard Divinity Sch.; Ways of Writing: The Practice and Politics of Text-Making in Seventeenth-Century New England) returns to the fertile ground of Colonial New England to construct a new ideological framework of a Puritan world based on equity and established through compromise and mediation. The core of this concisely written, scholarly work centers on Hall's argument that freed from an environment in England that limited -political, social, and intellectual reform, Puritans in early 17th-century New England established "churches, civil governments, and a code of laws that collectively marked them as the most advanced reformers in the Anglo--colonial world." Hall contends that the society that emerged in New England was not the result of an authoritarian theocracy or an emergent liberalism but the consequence of a realistic negotiation that struck a delicate balance between liberty and authority. VERDICT Hall has produced a remarkably sophisticated and lucid work that ultimately shifts the established paradigm and opens up numerous avenues for further research. Highly recommended for students and historians of Colonial American history and religion.-Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Reconsideration of state- and community-building by American Puritans of the mid-1600s.Playing upon the term "reform," Hall (Divinity/Harvard Univ.; Ways of Writing: The Practice and Politics of Text-Making in Seventeenth-Century New England, 2008 etc.) explores how the American Puritans set about a process of political and social reform that mirrored, yet surpassed, that of their English counterparts. "Amid the tumult of English popular politics of the 1640s," writes the author, "the colonists were enacting an 'English Revolution' of their own." In an attempt to eschew the overbearing authoritarianism the colonists had left England to avoid, the Puritans created communities marked by what could be seen as a proto-democratic political ethic. However, Hall goes to some length to remind his readers that such terms as "liberal" and "authoritarian" would have been lost on the Puritans, and indeed are of little help to modern scholars in understanding the colonists' motives and results. Not only did congregational life largely define New England statecraft, reformed theology also defined public discourse. Another theme exposed by the author is the modern-day tendency to see Puritan New England either as a vanguard of liberties or as a touchstone of theocracy. Again, Hall argues that in no case was the period that simplistic. Though the author demonstrates rigorous scholarship, the book is not accessible to general readers. Aimed at an audience already familiar with both Puritan New England and the English Civil Wars, the narrative is often opaque and dry.Reserved for the scholar's bookshelf.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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