Combining the tools and methods of the social scientist with the imagination and breadth of the intellectual historian, Lockridge uses the incidence of signatures on wills to develop the causes and effects of the great movement toward universal literacy between the early 17th and the end of the 18th century in New England. He examines the influence of intense Protestantism, the ancient association of literacy with wealth and status, and the possibility that colonial Yankee values may be an early indication of a ""modern personality type"" marked by activism, optimism and an awareness of wider forces and larger loyalties than illiterate laborers display. Paradoxically, the study of wills shows no correlation between rising literacy and the charitable impulse toward new social causes, suggesting that behind the modernist ""Weberian echoes"" of the educational emphasis of Protestantism is a desire to reaffirm the traditional values of society. Lockridge's A New England Town (1970) was a case study inquiring into the roots of American utopianism. He intends this more broadly based monograph as a preliminary attempt to place a similar expression of the American democratic spirit in a comparative historical perspective. A model of meticulous quantitative research with tables, charts, lengthy footnotes and bibliography, for the specialist.