The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Library of American Biography) 3rd Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321478061
ISBN-10: 0321478061
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Caught between the ideals of God's Law and the practical needs of the people, John Winthrop walked a line few could tread.

 

In every aspect of our society today we see the workings of the tension between individual freedom and the demands of authority.  Here is the story of the people that brought this idea to our shores: the Puritans.  Edmund Morgan relates the hardships and triumphs of the Puritan movement through this vivid account of its most influential leader, John Winthrop.

 

The titles in theLibrary of American Biography Seriesmake ideal supplements for American History Survey courses or other courses in American history where figures in history are explored.  Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each interpretive biography in this series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of American history and national life. In addition, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 3rd edition (October 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321478061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321478061
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Wilding on August 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
This brief and dense history of John Winthrop's Boston is a must-read for folks interested in colonial life in America. Beginning with the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Company in England, and following them to the new world and the new struggles that accompany their arrival, historical juggernaut Edmund Morgan paints an unfamiliar picture of John Winthrop.

Often depicted as a fundamentalist zealot, Morgan's Winthrop is a more pragmatic puritan - one willing to make compromises in favor of trade, diplomacy, or popular support. Winthrop's struggles with his own people are also highlighted throughout the book, particularly in the roller coaster of on-again, off-again governorship between him and his rivals.

The book also clarifies the objectives and different types of puritanism, which I, as a student of history, found very helpful in understanding the religious landscape of Englands both new and old.

The one downside to the work is the style in which it's written. As an early work of Morgan's, he had not yet found the compelling, conversational voice which he is today known for, resulting in an academic tone that makes reading a bit tedious at times. Regardless, the thorough research and interesting subject matter more than makes up for it.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on October 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a good overview of Puritanism in England and New England in the first half of the 17th century, especially the role of John Winthrop in establishing a Puritan commonwealth in the vicinity of Boston, Mass under the auspices of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630. Little time is spent on day-to-day living conditions in the new Mass. Bay colony - and they were harsh.

Much of the book is concerned with the subtle but explosive differences in Puritan thought that Winthrop was forced to deal with: Separatism, Presbyterianism (hierarchical, inclusive) vs. Congregationalism (flat, independent, & exclusive), or such deviating thought as Arminianism and Antinomiansim. In some cases, diffident residents were banned from the colony, such as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.

In addition, the author shows the gradual inclusion of adult male church members in the governance of the colony from the original conception of only the few members of the Company exercising absolute control. The author maintains that the basics of church-state separation existed, yet there is no doubt that both sectors were concerned with rooting out and punishing ungodly behavior. The author shows that the survival of the colony owed a lot to Winthrop as he resisted tendencies of some towards separatism and purity - in other words, fanaticism. At times he was voted out of the governor's office, but the colony always returned to him.

A rather understated aspect of the book is any real feel for living in a totally religious community under constant surveillance and the superiority of those who wish to judge who had been saved or not (or worse). Somehow the spread of that mindset into representative government is not especially heartwarming. The myopic idea that a pure, godly community, superior to others, could be established plagues us even today.
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By Ron Wood on September 12, 2013
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An inspiring historical work which challenges stereotypes and conventional views while bringing the time, issues and people of this period to life. It helps the reader make important decisions about significant ideas and events of John Winthrop's time and today. You can't help but be impressed by Morgan's intelligence, humor and thorough research.
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A fine book. Fills in the knowledge gaps from our earlier school courses. As a New Englander I really found it iterating and strongly recommend it to everyone interested in the early days of government in our country.
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By rw0044 on May 30, 2015
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Very informative and provided detailed insight and background on John Winthrop and the great migration.
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By Real Revival on August 16, 2014
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Well worth a read for those interested in Puritan issues.
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