Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple's Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World

Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple's Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World

Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple's Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World

Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple's Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World

Synopsis

Jean-Francois Reynier, a French Swiss Huguenot, and his wife, Maria Barbara Knoll, a Lutheran from the German territories, crossed the Atlantic several times and lived among Protestants, Jews, African slaves, and Native Americans from Suriname to New York and many places in between. While they preached to and doctored many Atlantic peoples in religious missions, revivals, and communal experiments, they encountered scandals, bouts of madness, and other turmoil, including within their own marriage. Aaron Spencer Fogleman's riveting narrative offers a lens through which to better understand how individuals engaged with the eighteenth-century Atlantic world and how men and women experienced many of its important aspects differently.
Reynier's and Knoll's lives illuminate an underside of empire where religious radicals fought against church authority and each other to find and spread the truth; where Atlantic peoples had spiritual, medical, and linguistic encounters that authorities could not always understand or control; and where wives disobeyed husbands to seek their own truth and opportunity.

Excerpt

This book is about a marriage, specifically, the marriage of a woman named Maria Barbara Knoll and a doctor named Jean-François Reynier, two very different people from very different corners of Europe who were drawn into the historic events that shaped the Atlantic World in the eighteenth century. Throughout their obscure but storied lives, Knoll and Reynier resided on three continents, endured four colonial wars, and participated in conquest, slavery, religious missions, and revivals. They interacted with colonists, Indians, rebellious slaves, and imperial troops. They were religious seekers who frequently found themselves at odds with the communities in which they lived. They were also frequently at odds with each other, and marital tension and scandal threatened to tear them apart. Their travels and adventures led them through so many different places and episodes of the Atlantic World that their lives provide an invaluable insight and perspective into how that world functioned in the eighteenth century and the different ways that women and men experienced it.

The story of this marriage begins on 25 March 1740, when the young, anxious, strong-spirited Maria Barbara Knoll awaited her wedding ceremony in the Schloß (palace) Marienborn in Wetteravia, near the free imperial city of Frankfurt am Main in the German territories. There was good reason for her anxiety. By evening’s end, she would be bound in holy matrimony to JeanFrancois Reynier, and as of yet, she had never properly met the man.

Maria Barbara Knoll had journeyed to Marienborn to join a budding religious movement committed to a communal spiritual lifestyle and an elevated role for women. Upon arrival, she did not know that the group’s leaders would ask her to marry a member of their group whom she had never met. When they did ask—she was not forced—she reluctantly agreed. As if marrying a stranger was not enough, soon after the wedding the newlyweds were scheduled to cross the Atlantic Ocean together, but not for a honeymoon. Because of Reynier’s religious zeal and medical skills, church leaders had selected him . . .

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