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A Reforming People

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  28 ratings  ·  5 reviews
A revelatory account of the aspirations and accomplishments of the people who founded the New England colonies, comparing the reforms they enacted with those attempted in England during the period of the English Revolution.

Distinguished historian David D. Hall looks afresh at how the colonists set up churches, civil governments, and methods for distributing land. Bringing
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Lauren Albert
I’ve been spoiled by the popular histories I’ve been reading. This book is very readable for an academic history but it does seem to be aimed at more of a specialized audience. Hall’s mission is to refute the image of a rigid theocratic oligarchy that has been imposed on early American government. As he shows in this astute and well-researched book is that the reality was much more complicated. The Puritans put a lot of value on their notion of “equity” and there was much more participation in g ...more
Liked it. I wasn't completely enthralled the whole time, but Hall has an interesting argument here. Basically he is saying that the Puritans of early New England were very conservative by our standards but they were really not the excessively theocratic authoritarian controlling prigs that we tend to accuse them of being. To Hall, they were the "most advanced reformers of the Anglo-Colonial world." They instituted reforms in Massachusetts and Connecticut and Rhode Island that people talked about ...more
Hall's work here is not as broad or as easily accessible as the magisterial World of Wonders, but it is a wonderful book in and of itself. Denying that the Puritans were authoritarian theocrats or 17th century liberal democrats, he instead argues that in their church order, their legal system, their local and colonial governments, they created a widely participatory government and society that sought to limit the exercise of authoritarian power. The Puritans could create a truly revolutionary so ...more
Brian Collins
Hall carefully debunks the idea that the Puritans were religious authoritarians who opposed liberty in the new world and oppressed those who differed from their theology. In doing so, Hall demonstrates that the liberal idea of freedom that dominates contemporary culture is not the only possible conception of freedom. The Puritans did not understand authority and liberty as opposites. Rather, they are interrelated and mutually checked by recognized "obligation and limits."
Aug 26, 2012 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: class
Not the most accessible monograph, David Hall nevertheless clearly achieves his aim in convincing the reader that contrary to popular belief (propagated in part by authors of fiction in the 19th and 20th centuries), the Puritans were not at all authoritarian -- in fact, their civil government and religious institutions were extremely participatory. They accomplished much of the reform only dreamed of in contemporary England, and in examining their society, we need to look at it through a contemp ...more
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