First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World. By Francis J. Bremer. (Durham, NH" University of New Hampshire Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 282. $27.95.)
Americans are captivated with the Founding Fathers. To address this fascination, scholars have published countless volumes on men and women from the nation's founding era. The focus, of course, has especially been on figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and even neglected founders like Patrick Henry. In First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World, Puritan scholar Francis J. Bremer enters the fray. Exploring the interconnected lives of some of North America's genuine first English founders, Bremer convincingly argues that Puritanism, which was experienced in more varied ways than scholars have normally recognized, shaped the founding of New England and America in dynamic and lasting ways.
The real strength of Bremer's work in this volume lies in his ability to stress the varieties of Puritanism to which colonial Americans adhered and to demonstrate the connections that often existed between the various men and women of this founding era. Focusing on presenting sketches of a wide cross section of Puritan society, Bremer writes especially for a general audience, making these Puritans very accessible to his readers. By selecting such a variety of figures across racial, gender, and theological dividers, including John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, John Davenport, Anne Bradstreet, and John Sassamon, among others, he is able to show a wide range of Puritan experiences from those considered squarely within orthodoxy to those flirting with the boundaries of the movement to those whom many Puritans were not quite certain how to include because of their ethnic and cultural differences. …