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John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father [Paperback]

Francis J. Bremer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 2005
John Winthrop's effort to create a Puritan "City on a Hill" has had a lasting effect on American values, and many remember this phrase famously quoted by the late Ronald Reagan. However, most know very little about the first American to speak these words. In John Winthrop, Francis J. Bremer draws on over a decade of research in England, Ireland, and the United States to offer a superb biography of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, one rooted in a detailed understanding of his first forty years in England. Indeed, Bremer provides an extensive, path-breaking treatment of Winthrop's family background, youthful development, and English career. His dissatisfaction with the decline of the "godly kingdom of the Stour Valley" in which he had been raised led him on his errand to rebuild such a society in a New England. In America, Winthrop would use the skills he had developed in England as he struggled with challenges from Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, amongothers, and defended the colony from English interference. We also see the personal side of Winthrop--the doubts and concerns of the spiritual pilgrim, his everyday labors and pleasures, his feelings for family and friends. And Bremer also sheds much light on important historical moments in England and America, such as the Reformation and the rise of Puritanism, the rise of the middling class, the colonization movement, and colonial relations with Native Americans. Incorporating previously unexplored archival materials from both sides of the Atlantic, here is the definitive portrait of one of the giants of our history.

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From Publishers Weekly

Today John Winthrop (1588-1649) is perhaps best remembered for the famous sermon in which he likened the Massachusetts Bay Colony to a "city upon a hill," a model to the world of social and religious order. Bremer, editor of the Winthrop papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society, draws on those papers to add tremendously to our understanding of this pivotal figure, eloquently reminding us in a rich, magisterial biography how much Winthrop contributed to the founding of the colonies. Bremer studies Winthrop's early life in exhaustive detail, chronicling how his first four decades, in England, shaped his views and actions as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bremer focuses on his youthful spiritual struggles, carefully recorded in a journal, including his early decision to pursue a religious vocation and his sudden, unexplained decision to give that up to marry his first wife when he was only 17. After he gained the respect of his peers as an even-handed magistrate, he was elected governor of the new Massachusetts Bay Colony, where for eight years he governed with a judicious hand, mediating in religious and political feuds, including the expulsions of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson for their dissenting views. Bremer uses previously unavailable materials in the Winthrop archives to vividly recreate the religious and political reform movements in early 17th-century England. Bremer's definitive biography gracefully portrays Winthrop as a man of his time, whose influence in the new colony grew out of his own struggles to establish his identity before he left England.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Known but to God and American history majors, Winthrop has lapsed into obscurity. It wasn't always so--interest in him was palpable 50 years ago, when his collected papers plus a popular biography by the distinguished historian Edmund Morgan (The Puritan Dilemma, 1958; 2d ed., 1999) were published. Going one step further than his predecessors, Bremer encompasses Winthrop's entire life, which is extraordinarily well documented for the time, in part because of a journal Winthrop maintained during the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A natural leader, Winthrop organized the emigration from England that in 1630 founded Boston. Winthrop envisaged his city as that of an ordered, godly state, but as Bremer presents in exhaustive detail, his de facto theocracy grated. Resistance to it produced Roger Williams and Rhode Island and Winthrop's own deposition as governor. Including the formation of Winthrop's redemptive theology among the Puritans in England, Bremer's diligently researched work is the definitive landmark study of its subject. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, Readable, Excellent Biography May 11 2004
Format:Hardcover
Bremer has brought us a sensitive and balanced portrayal of Winthrop, one that is at the same time truly gripping. One of the significant contributions of the book is Bremer's attention to Winthrop's forty or so years in England prior to coming to the United States, which helps create the sense of organic development and shows points of continuity between English Puritanism and that of the New England colonies. The relationship between Bremer's presentation and other scholarly opinions is covered in many of the endnotes, which makes it useful to the scholar but not burdensome for the average reader. Scholars, history buffs, and even those just interested in the human experience of life, will find this book rewarding. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History Well Done! April 24 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. The author demonstrates a rich, nuanced command of the period and the players. I especially appreciate how he works to portray the characters from their own perspective instead of juding people who lived four centuries ago by todays ideas. I appreciate that he goes to great length to provide historical context. Indeed, he provides so much context, beginning with the subject's grandfather, that the book starts out a little slowly. But once the book reaches the point of Winthrop's departure for America, it remains compelling up to the end. A wonderful book for a more complete picture of the settlement of our country and a valuable addition to a balanced view of the puritans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not such a bad guy, after all... Jan. 23 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is a well-written and fresh look at John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bremer derives his view of Winthrop from the "Model of Christian Charity" sermon, which Winthrop delivered sometime around his emigration to North America. Rather than the stern, unbending, and judgemental character that is the common perception, Bremer shows Winthrop as a pragmatic leader who often worked behind the scenes to reconcile diverging points of view. As portrayed in this book, Winthrop was a man of humility who strove to include anyone with a "spark of godliness" into the community.
At 385 pages of text, the book moved along quickly. I was sorry to get to the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Winthrop Remembered Oct. 23 2003
Format:Hardcover
Thanks to an absent minded John Winthrop falling into a foul smelling peat bog and surviving (which he took as a sign that he should emigrate to the colonies) the settlers of the Massachusets Bay Company were blessed with a practical and efficient administrator. Elected Governor many times over, John Winthrop is portrayed as an honest and god fearing a man as any patriotic American would want.
Although a good third of the book describes Winthrop's life in England, it is justified and necessary to see the religious and social preparations for his career in America. Once he came to America, his life was devoted to the preservation of his religion, his family and his colony.
Those readers familiar with Boston and surroundings will enjoy the detail in this biography; the streets he lived on, the configuarion of the city, its growth during Winthrop's lifetime.
And how easy it is to forget how little in the way of goods and services was available to the settlers in the 17th century. John Winthrop was not in the first wave of New Englanders in Plymouth, but even 10 years later he had to bring with him wheat, barley, oats, beans and peas for cultivation, potatoes, hop roots, hemp seed, tame turkeys and rabbits, linen and woolen cloth, bottles, ladles, spoons and kettles, among a long list of other essentials.
In spite of harsh conditions and personal tragedies, Winthrop prevails and the reader will learn much about this "forgotten" Founding Father in this compelling and interesting biography.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! June 12 2003
Format:Hardcover
A magical rememberance of our past! Very well written. I highly recommend this book.
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