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This book tells an extraordinary story of the people of early New England and their spiritual lives. It is about ordinary people--farmers, housewives, artisans, merchants, sailors, aspiring scholars--struggling to make sense of their time and place on earth. David Hall describes a world of religious consensus and resistance: a variety of conflicting beliefs and believers ranging from the committed core to outright dissenters. He reveals for the first time the many-layered complexity of colonial religious life, and the importance within it of traditions derived from those of the Old World. We see a religion of the laity that was to merge with the tide of democratic nationalism in the nineteenth century, and that remains with us today as the essence of Protestant America.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674962163
ISBN-10: 0674962168
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 17mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 8-Nov-1990
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Using a wealth of primary materials, Hall (History/Boston U,; author of several books including The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century, 1972) lays open the intellectual world of 17th-century New England with a central focus on the "role of print culture in the making of popular religion." Though repetitious and sometimes ploddingly presented, this is, indeed, a "world of wonders," richer and more resonant than the popular notion of Puritan society. In his opening section, "The Uses of Literacy," Hall presents a society of near-universal literacy where most read the Bible, the model for all printed matter. Both printers and clergy tapped into the Bible's authority in their own writings, creating marketplace competition about truth. The battle over interpretation continued as well, with the learned and the laity contesting power. Hall shows us the persistent folklore of the people, mixing at all levels with piety, as they saw prophecy, catastrophes, and monstrous births all around. Here, again, the marketplace had its influence, competing to offer tales of wonders, blurring the line between sacred material and secular. Chapters entitled "The Meetinghouse" and "The Uses of Ritual" present the official practice of religion: the separation of the elect and their covenant, along with the despair and terror it inspired; the uses of fasts, thanksgiving, and the public spectacle of confession and execution. In "The Mental World of Samuel Sewall," Hall gives us a man representative of his time. Slow going, but still a significant contribution to the intellectual, popular, and religious history of America. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - David D. Hall

David D. Hall is John A. Bartlett Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School.

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