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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.
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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.