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Thirty years ago, at the outset of his career as a historian, John Demos decided to reexamine that view in light of the evidence. Among the findings that he reports in A Little Commonwealth is the surprising discovery that the Puritans were not so, well, puritanical. They were not, Demos argues, especially consumed by ideology, and in their daily lives, "religion seems to figure in a somewhat haphazard and occasional way." The Puritans, he continues, had no unusual objections to sexuality or fun-seeking, except where such activities endangered social harmony--and the Puritans were indeed fiercely protective of group stability. Demos examines such documents as the transcripts of divorce proceedings to suggest that Puritan women enjoyed, if not equal rights, then better consideration than most women in other English colonies in the New World. He looks closely into the material culture of the Puritans, which shows some odd discrepancies: for instance, although few households possessed more than a single chair (usually reserved for the elderly), many contained elaborate wardrobes--for, Demos writes, "clothing was not only a good investment for a man of some means; it was also a way of demonstrating his standing in the larger community and of confirming his own self-image."
In questioning the view of the Puritans as a plain-dressing, plain-living, haunted, and repressed sect, Demos provides a close and intriguing look at the New England past. Reissued on the 30th anniversary of its first publication, A Little Commonwealth deserves a wide audience today. --Gregory McNamee
This was my beach book on a recent trip to Cape Cod. It deserves the description of 'classic'. The writing is engaging and the information is fascinating. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jeanajoan
This is a good book that was assigned to me in my Colonial America Class. I did enjoy reading it but at times it was boring that's why I gave it the 4 star rating.Published 14 months ago by Joey Degollado
Very interesting to have a look into the lives of the people in Plymouth Colony. However, it was also a little dreary because, let's face it, their lives were a little dreary.Published 14 months ago by Kimi
I got my item a day EARLIER than expected. It was nice to see it my doorstep so soon. Very reliable and the item was in great condition, so thank you very much!Published on August 25, 2011 by Hippos
Although written in 1970 it provides an interesting look at every aspect of colonial life in New England. I highly recomend it for everyone interested in this period of history. Read morePublished on January 5, 2007 by History nut
Mr. Demos certainly did a tremendous amount of research in preparing this work, as his information is plentiful, organized, and lends support to his theories. Read morePublished on December 21, 2006 by WhoooserDaddy
In this study Demos examines family life as it was for the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower, before they joined with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Read morePublished on August 11, 2005 by Bomojaz
I found the book to be informative, but not particularly revealing. After reading such books as OLD JULES, by Mari Sandoz (his daughter), and A BEAUTIFUL CRUEL COUNTRY, by Eva... Read morePublished on July 1, 2005 by Kenneth G. Ramey