- Series: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1469600870
- ISBN-13: 978-1469600871
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,244,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676 (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early ... History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia) 1st Edition
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The story is good, revealing how the scientific method emerged from empirical alchemy and giving a brilliant new interpretation of Winthrop's supposed change in attitude toward colonial potentials in his later years.--Early American Life
In a strikingly alchemical mixture, this book combines politics, economics, science, industry, warfare, and religion, and manages to create that most treasured of prizes--a fascinating portrait of a man who, while not unknown, is not as well known as perhaps is appropriate. . . . Readers will find many of their assumptions about Puritan New England challenged and ultimately revised. . . . Highly recommended.--Choice
"Marks a great leap forward in the integration of science studies with the grand tradition of colonial New England historiography, as well as in the integration of New England into studies of the early modern Atlantic world. . . . [Woodward] displays a sure hand in providing the best available account of the predisciplinary career of New England's most multidimensional founder.--American Historical Review
[A] competent and interesting study that places alchemy at the heart of John Winthrop, Jr.'s effort to shape colonial America.--Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Fresh, inventive, and mostly persuasive. . . . A far more interesting and important Winthrop than prior accounts have constructed.--Church History
A milestone in the study of John Winthrop Jr. . . . A first-rate study that radically changes our understanding of the younger Winthrop.--Journal of American History
Prospero's America masterfully places the life, thoughts, and actions of the Connecticut governor in elaborate cultural, political, and historical contexts. Its author leaves few stones unturned as he immerses his reader in Renaissance occultism, seventeenth-century medicine, early New England religious culture, and the politics of empire.--ZAA
Intriguing. . . . Thoroughly researched, highly readable, and insightful.--Early American Literature
A fine study by Woodward. Not strictly a biography, but it nonetheless places Winthrop at the center of the account.--Huntington Library Quarterly
[A] magnificently rich, wide-ranging, and suggestive book. . . . Holds important implications for the study not only of early American history but also the history of science. . . . A 'must read' for all historians of early New England and for historians of early modern science.--Common-Place
In his fine biography . . . Woodward's portrait of the younger Winthrop illuminates a particularly rich seventeenth-century life; one that clearly strides in the direction of the Enlightenment, if it does not have one foot there already.--Times Literary Supplement
A fascinating interpretation of New England history that challenges the traditional narrative.--C&RL News
Woodward's provocative and gracefully written monograph should be read widely by historians of early America and of early modern science….The pleasures of this book rest on the coherence of Woodward's use of alchemy, and Neoplatonism more broadly, to illuminate John Winthrop, Jr., and his world.--Reviews in American History
Woodward has written two books in one--a new biography of John Winthrop Jr. and a groundbreaking examination of the importance of alchemy in the first decades of New England's settlement. . . . An important contribution.--New England Quarterly
[A] wide ranging study. . . . An excellent, adventurous introduction to the place of alchemy in early New England culture and by far the best scholarly integration of Winthrop's alchemical interests with his other pursuits.--American Historical Review
No one until now has made a sustained attempt to integrate John Winthrop the Younger's pansophic, medical, and religious views into a coherent account where alchemy played a major role. . . . Woodward's book should breathe a vigorous new life into the study of early New England's complex religious, intellectual, and material culture.--William R. Newman, Indiana University
Woodward restores New England to its Atlantic World context. . . . His reinterpretation of Winthrop through the eyes of New England's Native peoples--as a potent leader from a sachem's lineage--is brilliant. The familiar is cast anew, and the reader who burrows into Woodward's fresh and original argument is rewarded again and again.--Ann Marie Plane, University of California, Santa Barbara
Walter Woodward has produced a splendidly original study of the world of John Winthrop, Jr. On almost every page one encounters provocative new insights. Woodward forces readers to rethink what they thought they knew about seventeenth-century science and medicine, witchcraft prosecutions, and political culture.--T. H. Breen, Center for Historical Studies, Northwestern University
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Top Customer Reviews
"Winthrop and his alchemical colleagues did not question whether alchemy was "scientific" or whether it was consistent with Puritan values. They understood alchemy to be a progressive, intellectual, immensely utilitarian but simultaneously spiritual undertaking of the utmost importance. They saw themselves as enlightened beings and lived in hope of achieving scientific advances of both immediate practical value and eternal importance."
Without setting out to do so, I believe Woodword has set in motion the academic study of the missing link of why alchemy was at the root of the Enlightenment and owns a recognizable place at the foundation of the philosophies that would form Speculative Freemasonry.
He details the relationships that connected the Medici, Marsilio Ficino, Pico Mirandolo, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Philippus Bambastus von Hohenhiem to that of the Royal Society and the secretive natural philosophers of the time such as Morray and Winthorp. Subsequently, he provides both the pan-Atlanitic link between philosophies and outlines a Christianized approach to science that would stress understanding the power of God's creation through scientific investigation. This theocratic approach to the sciences is found to have permeated European protestant friendly approaches to understanding our existence and found their way across the Atlantic. The super-fertile ground of colonialism gave birth to a new "Christian alchemy" that cross pollinated with the thinkers of Europe and reads so similar to the philosophies of Freemasonry as to be almost inseparable providing the "cement" of explanation as to why alchemy is so pervasive throughout the Masonic degrees in allegorical form.
This book is academic, honest, and well done. I recommend it to historians interested in the Enlightenment, Colonial America, etc. I recommend it to Freemasons and esotericist as well. The level of scholarship is astounding and higher than we normally find in books with the word alchemy in the title.
Winthrop is popularly known as the man most responsible for defending Connecticut's existence and winning a clear royal charter to govern. Woodward reveals Winthrop's many other roles and how they were interrelated.
Viewed by many as "the lesser Governor" in reference to his role as Governor of Connecticut in contrast to his father's dominating role as Governor of the larger Massachusetts Colony, the Winthrop that Woodward documents leads to a different evaluation. He shows us a figure of great talent and even greater dreams and ambitions.
John Winthrop Jr. had a vision that, although ultimately frustrated, encompassed the possibility of establishing a settlement in the New World that would draw leading intellectuals to live and work in a great experimental laboratory whose output would influence worldwide thinking. He was deeply interested in science and saw the study of alchemy in a broader role than a narrow quest to turn baser metals into gold. He saw it as a philosophy, an expression of the sciences of chemistry, metallurgy and physics and a religious quest. Making practical application of science, he initiated important commercial projects in mining and salt making to bolster New England's economy.
It is remarkable to learn the extent to which Winthrop did not live a life of isolation in New England. He traveled and he corresponded eagerly with like-minded individuals in England and Europe, sharing discoveries in alchemy. He was made a member of the Royal Society and called upon to sate their great hunger and curiosity about the New World. Sensitive to the potentially negative political effects of such knowledge, he was cunning in responding to the Royal Society's demands without whetting the appetite for tighter royal control of the colonies and their resources.
Winthrop played many roles - as the founder of New London and other settlements, as the political leader who successfully negotiated and defended a royal charter for Connecticut, as a beloved medical doctor, as a practicing scientific alchemist, as the developer of mining and salt making operations, as the would-be protector of the defeated Pequot tribe, and as the pillar of reason against witchcraft hysteria. These actions were not independent of one another. Woodward shows the linkages between these seemingly disparate activities and how they flowed from the consistent inner character and motivations of the man who did them.
"Prospero's America" is not a book for light reading. It is deeply researched and meticulously documented. However, it is not for academic consumption alone. Anyone with an interest in Colonial New England will be richly rewarded for persevering to the end. You will never again be able to view the major political, social and commercial events of seventeenth century Connecticut as haphazard and uncorrelated nor Puritan leadership as uniformly rigid. You will see that Governor John Winthrop Jr. was not an isolated figure, remote from the intellectual mainstream of his era, hidden away in a wilderness corner of Connecticut and the marginal shadow of his famous father.
Combining religion, metallurgy, healing, an entrepreneurial spirit and political will, Woodward is able to enlighten the reader with how those elements intertwine. Winthrop's efforts to found a NEW London was an attempt to create an outpost of scientific research in the wilderness.
Winthrop's knowledge and authority as a political leader gave him the power to put a brake on witchcraft trials in Connecticut -- while he was in the colony.
Too frequently our view of colonial New England culture is limited to puritans as religious zealots locked in a battle with the wilderness. This book jostles that outlook placing a proto-scientific lens on that world and placing Connecticut's early history within the framework of an Atlantic World Economy. All too often, historians have assumed Connecticut was just like Massachusetts; this work challenges that concept giving us new insight to the past, our local past. This book shines a bright light on southeastern Connecticut.