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Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  123 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
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 r ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Harvard University Press (first published 1989)
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Feb 21, 2012 Susie rated it really liked it
This book is about the laypeople of early New England and their popular religion. Hall attempts to show how culture and religion interacted. He rejects the idea of two separate religions, one rooted in folk ways of thinking, the other maintained by the clerics. Their church structures were not highly clerical and attendance was voluntary. There was an accomodation between magic and religion. The spoken word was seen as equally sacred as the printed page. Authors and ministers competed with the m ...more
Jun 09, 2012 Steven rated it really liked it
What I love about Hall's book is that it does away with the kind of dualities we've come to expect in Puritan history. Though I adore Perry Miller (more than Hall, only because he represents that bygone beast: the great scholar AND writer), accounts of the early American religious mind that focus solely on the clerical mind misses, Hall thinks (and I certainly agree), the everyday sentiments about religion, wonder, magic, rituals, and so on that Average Joe embodies. And it stands to reason that ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Kristi rated it liked it
Hall argues that popular religion in 17th century New England was characterized by Elizabethan tradition (despite modernizing influences in other aspects of society) and embedded in a culture of literacy. While New England was in many ways socially distinct from European society, folk traditions remained intact. Prevailing beliefs in Divine Providence and “Wonders” (the occult / Providential miracles), encompassed meteorology, astrology, apocalyptic prophecy, natural history, and magic. New Engl ...more
Jul 07, 2008 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
A wonderful study of Puritan thought in early America. If you think that people in the past think just like we do, try this book on for size. They really did see God in everything, and Hall shows this in several interesting ways. I loved this book.
Sep 07, 2015 Emma rated it it was amazing
Hall is a master. This is an examination of how the literacy of New England colonial laypeople affected their relationship with the clergy. Hall shows how literacy, print culture, the belief in wonders, the use of the meeting house, and liturgy (in both sacred and secular spaces) allowed laypeople more freedom of conscience than is typically ascribed to them in most historical analyses. He discusses these aforementioned topics and then brings them all to bear on the analysis of one man. The fina ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
Outstanding study of the Puritan mindset and world view.
Sep 30, 2013 Paul rated it liked it
In his book, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment, David D. Hall writes about popular religious beliefs in New England during the seventeenth century. Hall rejects the notion that popular religion exists in opposition to official religion. Instead, he argues that popular religion exists as a synergy of both the beliefs of the clergy and lay practitioners of a faith. The author also argues that the Puritans of New England developed a society that was characterized by social, political, and religiou ...more
Feb 20, 2013 John rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Hall's book, but I'm having trouble getting my thoughts in order on it because I didn't have to write about it for class. This is another of those must-reads for anyone interested in American religious history, or New England history, or colonial history...puritan history, etc. The real innovation here is that we are talking about average folks, and not solely learned ministers who published sermons and kept diaries. Hall is interested in the religious worlds of your typical col ...more
Daniel Tirre
Jun 19, 2014 Daniel Tirre rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
Hall masterfully displays the role of religion, the supernatural and "wonders" in Puritan New England society. Emphasizing the ways in which wonders permeated all aspects of colonial life, Hall challenges traditional narratives by arguing for a much more ambiguous society and culture wherein the popular beliefs of the lay and educated become much more complicated.
Excellent book about the nexus of religion and magic in New England in the seventeenth century. Provides context for accusations of witchcraft and witch trials in Salem. Assigned in a graduate class on British Colonial America.
Feb 18, 2015 Nicholas rated it liked it
Pretty interesting book. Insightful look at the Puritans and how literacy rates were raised by the Bible.
Jan 15, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing
Packed with detail about individual practices, thoughts, experiences, this book gives insight into the experience of early American Congregationalists which yields some interesting surprises. Among them, the anxiety around full membership and how it is linked to the moral responsibility one has at the Lord's table as much as the burden of providing a testimony of saving grace.
Jonathon Camper
Oct 19, 2013 Jonathon Camper rated it liked it
The chapter on literacy in New England makes this book. Extremely interesting.
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For the Fenland Survey historian, see David D. Hall.

Professor David D. Hall is an American historian, and was Bartlett Professor of New England Church History, at Harvard Divinity School.

He graduated from Harvard University, and from Yale University with a Ph.D. He is well known for introducing Lived religion to religious studies scholarship in the United States, most notably at Harvard Divinity
More about David D. Hall...

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