Monday, May 6, 2013

Den Hartog on Puritanism

Check out Jonathan Den Hartog's recent post at Religion in American History on the current state of Puritan studies.  Den Hartog analyzes a few of the most recent studies of 17th-century New England life, including:

Sarah Rivett, Science of the Soul in Colonial New England

Francis Bremer, First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World

David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England

Michael Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill

Here is a taste of his post:

But let me add a few notes of my own. It turns out there is a lot of overlap between Hall and Winship’s books—which Winship notes. Still, the book is worth looking at for the breadth of reading in Puritan writings. As with previous Winship studies, this book demonstrates a deep engagement with Puritan sources on both sides of the Atlantic. Winship specifically examines extended Puritan debates about the shape of governance. Almost half of the book is set in England, before the Puritan migration. Winship also does more with Plymouth Colony, as a contrast to what happened in Massachusetts Bay.

For my money, one of Winship's most interesting contributions is to describe the seventeenth-century republican writer Algernon Sidney as a Calvinist and as a Puritan. Hence, Sidney's republicanism bears traces of earlier Puritan debates.

The pay-off, then, might be to think about connections between Puritan republican tendencies and the republicanism that contributed to the American Revolution. Rather than being simply an eighteenth century import, republican political thought may have found already-tilled soil in New England.

Read Den Hartog's entire historiographical essay on Puritans in the Journal of Church & State.