Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Deborah Whitehead

Second Advisor

Ira Chernus

Third Advisor

Fred Anderson

Abstract

The religious and political conditions characterizing the daily lives of individuals comprising the English "Great Migration generation," traveling to the New World from 1620 until the outbreak of the English Civil War over twenty years later have long received a heavy concentration of scholarly interest from a wide variety of academic fields, most notably those historians concerned with early American religious practice and belief. Theological developments in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Puritan East Anglia, as well as the literal "reshuffling" of populations within the late medieval and early modern English countryside as a result of long-standing social and economic tensions, have both served within historical analysis as powerfully influential episodes of early Anglo-American religious, economic, and political histories. This particular study attempts to offer a complementary interpretation of early American religious history, primarily concerning the development of practical piety and regulation of economic conduct within Puritan New England.

Such a project endeavors to analyze these specific façets of Anglo-American colonization while recognizing both the traditional devotional practices of early English families, as well as the concurrent economic and political changes within southeastern England, as widely influential factors in early American social development. In addition, this study aims to identify and analyze particular aspects of late medieval and early modern English religious practice and modes of rationality which were both intellectually and practically informed by the Aristotelian and Augustinian traditions of moral theory and social discipline that had partially constituted the historical basis for many domestic and political policies of Western Christendom, factors often left under-emphasized or unacknowledged within analyses of early New England history.

Such an explanatory investigation of domestic piety, social construction, and virtuous economic conduct in Puritan New England, in light of their correlative indebtedness to certain customary methods of activity within Western Christendom, posits a supplementary exposition of those particular historical agents comprising "New England's generation." Puritan settlers living, working, and praying in seventeenth-century New England, this analysis argues, desired nor attempted to construct an environment religious, political, or economic separation from their collective English heritage - much less a "revolution" - but rather endeavored, in unforeseen yet historically traditional ways, to reassert the power and authority of historical moral custom dominated by overtly conservative Aristotelian and Augustinian methods of social composition, stratification, and regulation.

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