The American People in Colonial New England

By James Axtell | Go to book overview

VII. DEATH

In the uncertainty of life is the certainty of death. How long could the New England colonists expect to live? Could men expect to live longer than women? Why? What did the faithful Puritans hope for at death? Did they have any assurances? What was the minister's role at the approach of death? How were New England funerals conducted? For whom were they primarily intended? What was the significance of giving rings, gloves, and scarves at funerals? What were the benefits of attending funerals? What was the religious significance of funerals for the Puritans? What was the popular conception of the Day of Judgement? Who sat on the right hand of God? the left? (Recall the position of boy and girl children in utero.) What were their respective rewards? How did their conception of Judgement Day affect the living behavior of the Puritans?

Death punches no timeclock, but in most New England communities people died with a certain regularity. John Demos has calculated the incidence of mortality among the people of 17th-century Plymouth in A Little Commonwealth ( New York, 1970), pp. 192- 193. (See also Tables 1 and 2 for infant mortality.)

-153-

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The American People in Colonial New England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • THE AMERICAN PEOPLE 1
  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • About the Editor 6
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Foreword 9
  • Introduction 13
  • I. Birth 15
  • Ii. Growth 36
  • Iii. Love and Marriage 62
  • Iv. Work and Play 78
  • V. Right and Wrong 101
  • Vii. Death 153
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