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Reforming People

Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England

David D. Hall

Publication Year: 2012

In this revelatory account of the people who founded the New England colonies, historian David D. Hall compares the reforms they enacted with those attempted in England during the period of the English Revolution. Bringing with them a deep fear of arbitrary, unlimited authority, these settlers based their churches on the participation of laypeople and insisted on "consent" as a premise of all civil governance. Puritans also transformed civil and criminal law and the workings of courts with the intention of establishing equity. In this political and social history of the five New England colonies, Hall provides a masterful re-evaluation of the earliest moments of New England’s history, revealing the colonists to be the most effective and daring reformers of their day.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Quotes, Title Page, Further Reading, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. FM1-v


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Books take on a life of their own once they pass into the hands of readers. Less than a year after its initial publication (April 2011), this is already under way with A Reforming People, prompted in part by a word in the subtitle that dates from the late sixteenth century when...

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pp. xv-xxi

Good titles are like eels, slipping away just as you reach out to catch hold of one. As this book was beginning to form in my mind, an eellike title appeared and, almost as suddenly, disappeared: “Why They Mattered.” Remembering that moment, I realize that it grew out of...

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pp. 3-21

Shortly after Charles I received the Petition of Right in 1628 and agreed to its provisions, he changed his mind and inserted a speech justifying the royal prerogative in the journal of the House of Commons. In a Boston where muddy tracks and half- built houses...

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CHAPTER ONE: “Arbitrary” or “Democratical”? The Making of Colony Governments

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pp. 22-52

Two months after arriving in Massachusetts in June 1630, the officers of the Massachusetts Bay Company held a “court” in their new capacity as administrators of a colony. That day, the business at hand was deciding how to pay the ministers the Company...

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CHAPTER TWO: Land, Taxes, and Participation The Making of Town Governments

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pp. 53-95

As colony governments were forming, the colonists were busy devising rules and structures for the towns in which they lived. This, too, was a politics that aroused strong feelings, for the business of each town was deciding how land should be distributed...

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CHAPTER THREE: Godly Rule Empowering the Saints

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pp. 96-126

Explicating the book of Revelation to a lecture- day audience in Boston, John Cotton urged the colonists to “raise up” their “hearts in holy thankfulnesse to God” that they had been “delivered” from the “great beast” of Roman Catholicism. The central...

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CHAPTER FOUR: An Equitable Society Ethics, the Law, and Authority

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pp. 127-158

The hope that everyday life coincides with an ethics of love (“charity”), peace, and justice is as old as Christianity and as fresh as last Sunday’s sermon in our twenty- first- century churches. So is the sentiment that the two are misaligned, the everyday world...

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CHAPTER FIVE: “Already in Heaven”? Church and Community in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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pp. 159-190

Something about the land bordering the Charles River up - stream from Boston, a place named Newtown by the first people to settle there, was bothersome. Within a year of arriving in Newtown in 1633, Thomas Hooker and the “company” that had followed...

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pp. 191-196

At a tense moment in New England politics, the arrival of four commissioners dispatched by the government of Charles II to terminate the colonists’ de facto independence from England, ninety- one men in the town of Hadley, Massachusetts...


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pp. 197-244


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pp. 245-255

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A Note About the Author, A Note on the Type

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pp. 257

David D. Hall received his A.B. from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Yale. From 1970 to 1989 he was at Boston University as Associate Professor and then Professor; he also served as Director of the American and New England Studies Program (1970–76). In 1989 he became Professor of...

E-ISBN-13: 9781469601656
E-ISBN-10: 1469601656
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807873113
Print-ISBN-10: 080787311X

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012