Saints & Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History

Saints & Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History

Saints & Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History

Saints & Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History

Excerpt

The essays in Saints and Revolutionaries deal with the century and three quarters that lies between the founding of the American colonies and the Revolutionary era. These essays take up three broad aspects of this period: religion and mentality; law and politics; and culture, society, and the Revolution. Some of them provide new depths of factual precision. Others start with well-known materials and review them from a different angle. What all these essays have in common is a willingness to reconsider certain story lines or categories that we often take for granted.

Another kind of common ground is this: the authors have been students of Edmund S. Morgan. Saints and Revolutionaries is dedicated to him, with gratitude and affection, by all of his Ph. D. degree students. Whether growing out of work in progress or prepared especially for this volume, these essays seek to honor him as a teacher and a historian.

In these two roles, Edmund Morgan has never slackened in his curiosity about the past. To review his more than forty years of creativity is to recognize that two events have deeply touched him, the revolution wrought by Perry Miller and the reaction against the Progressive historians. Morgan would enhance and help consolidate each one of these great transformations.

Coming out of Harvard in the days when Perry Miller was overturning our most basic assumptions about the Puritans, Morgan found it natural to write his dissertation on some aspect of Puritanism. The Puritan Family (1944) was another blow against false stereotypes, though its main purpose was to explore how the covenant theology—the central theme in Miller's grand revisionism—affected the structure of the family. In later work, as Morgan continued to pursue the history of New England Puritanism, the emphasis would shift away from Miller's categories. In Miller's first book Orthodoxy in Massachusetts, he read the history of modern denominationalism back into the Puritan movement in the early seventeenth century. He assumed that Puritanism had fragmented into several groups, each . . .

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