A reexamination of Puritanism spanning the British Isles and American Colonies.
Hall (Emeritus, Religious History/Harvard Divinity School; A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England, 2011, etc.) sets out to explore the origins, triumphs, and defeats of the Puritan movement as it was manifested in England, Scotland, America, and, to a lesser extent, Ireland. The author also aims to reclaim Puritanism from the unseemly stereotype it acquired as the liberalizing church in England and America distanced itself from this ancestor in the 19th century. The story of Puritanism begins, necessarily, with the story of the Reformation and, most especially, with that of the “Reformed Movement” of Calvinism, which migrated north into England and Scotland in the 1500s. Hall begins with this period and explains how a significant portion of the church, having hoped for thorough reform, became increasingly dissatisfied with the policies of Elizabeth I and then James I, both of whom they felt were too aligned with Catholic practice and doctrine. The Puritan movement that arose from these disputes was never entirely unified, but it would act as a defining force in British politics and church polity for decades, culminating in the execution of Charles I. Parallel to this history lesson, Hall delves into the lives of everyday Puritans and how the movement affected the worship of the average church. This includes the “practical divinity,” whereby Reformed theology was translated into the quest for personal salvation, and the “reformation of manners,” the push for holy living for which Puritanism is often remembered and, indeed, caricatured. As he did in A Reforming People, Hall provides an in-depth and erudite study that scholars will find quite useful; however, average readers will be lost in the details and academic tone. Ultimately, the author makes readers reconsider the character and role of the Puritan movement.
A well-researched study of the Puritans that will find most of its readers within academia.