Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism

Article excerpt

American The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism. By Thomas S. Kidd. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2004. Pp. xii, 212. $40.00.)

First among this slim volume's virtues is its contrary ambition. The middle period (1690-1740) of North America's colonial history has never received the attention it deserves. This shortcoming is particularly noticeable in the otherwise extensive scholarship on New England. Between the Salem witchcraze and the Great Awakening yawns a valley of low regard. Thomas Kidd is not its only inhabitant, of course, but his contribution is rare enough to be very welcome. Kidd's thesis is straightforward: Puritanism could not help but change after the effrontery of the late Stuarts and the much-hoped-for but still intrusive Williamite settlement; yet this change was neither dramatic nor transforming. The Congregational order and its intellectual culture maintained their integrity by uniting their hopes with those of a transatlantic "Protestant Interest," which had coalesced to meet the Roman Catholic menace. Within New England, this Interest encouraged an evangelical ideology that was most vividly expressed in the revivals of the late 1730's and early 1740's.

One sign of competence is an understanding of the fundamentals-truths too often avoided for the sake of avoiding the obvious. For example, one cannot dwell too much on the anti-Catholicism of the colonial Yankee, and Kidd's work certainly does not err on the side of reticence. Furthermore, Kidd knows that to understand New England, one must wrestle with the notion of a "dissenting establishment." The Protestant Interest rises to this task repeatedly, though this reader wishes the book had done even more to connect New England's establishmentarian instincts to the Union of England and Presbyterian Scotland.

Kidd's period saw the integration of New England into Britain's empire, and The Protestant Interest dutifully cites the neoimperial histories of David Armitage, Ian Steele, and Bernard Bailyn. …

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