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A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 26, 2011
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"In this elegant and richly nuanced book, David Hall rescues the New England Puritans from the dark myths of repression. By recovering their probing ideas and eloquent debates, Hall reveals our original revolutionaries in search of equity, justice, and community." –Alan Taylor, author of The Civil War of 1812
"A Reforming People powerfully transforms our understanding of the role of Puritanism in the re-making of political culture and institutions in seventeenth-century New England. A model of elegance and erudition, David Hall’s thought-provoking book re-opens the testing question of the roots of modern politics in the Anglo-colonial world. It tells a compelling story that has immense resonance for our understanding of the past–but also the present." –Alexandra Walsham, author of Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England 1500-1700
"In A Reforming People, David Hall reminds us of the political accomplishments of New England’s founders, their radical remaking of the nature of public life, through their commitment to self-government and their ethic of equity and mutual obligation. With an authority rooted in his unmatched mastery of the sources, Hall provides an elegant and heartfelt testament to the continuing relevance of the Puritans." –Mark Peterson, author of The City-State of Boston, 1630-1865
"Thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller, Puritan New England is popularly identified with authoritarian theocracy. In this book, a brilliant historian of early New England takes us beyond the stereotype, and reveals how the first Puritan settlers enacted their own ‘English Revolution’ in public life. Hall depicts a society that (despite its failings) prized and institutionalised accountability, participation and equity. Never before have we had such a compelling account of the New Englanders’ civic achievement." –Professor John Coffey, co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism
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It seems one cannot begin to understand 17th C. Anglo-American history until you have been both Catholic and a Calvinist and been to law school and thought the first year curriculum in law school was the most interesting thing ever.
In this very excellent work David Hall approaches the first 20 years or so of the Bay Colony from the religious and cultural point of view.
Through out the book, Hall presents his conclusions from his research into how the town and colony government developed and functioned roughly between 1630-50. The words that came to my mind to the describe the process was "iterative" or perhaps "dialectic" The first issue was who or what was sovereign. Following Hall, it seems the king was never mentioned; that the presbyterian system of bishops was rejected out of hand; and the result was that first Christ and then His godly people speaking both personally and through their representatives were sovereign. Hall suggests that the populism implicit in all this was tempered by Winthrop who, in Hall's excellent observation, was just the right man to ensure that the governor and his assistants retained just enough magisterial power to prevent the colony from coming apart. Hall's Winthrop reminded me strongly of Henry Ireton and Sir Thomas Fairfax.
Hall advances the thesis (which I strongly endorse) that the Puritans who founded the Bay Colony are properly considered as the most successful and historically important of the many factions and sects that emerged from the Puritan Revolution that had been simmering in England since the short reign of Edward VI and that exploded into civil war when Charles I raised the royal standard in Nottingham on August 22, 1642.Read more ›