Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America

Article excerpt

Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America. By Mark Valeri. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, Pp. xiii, 337. $35.00.)

Among the many studies of Puritanism there has been a subcategory interested in Puritan views of economics. From Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) to more recent works such as Frank Lambert's "Pedlar in Divinity" (1994) and Mark Peterson's The Price of Redemption (1995), scholars have analyzed the connections between Puritanism/Calvinism and the development of a market economy. Mark Valeri's Heavenly Merchandize takes this analysis to a whole new level and will shape the argument for years to come.

Many have assumed that the Puritans had a fixed theology of economics that did not change over time. Valeri proves that assumption false. His book covers a period of approximately one hundred years, from the founding of Massachusetts Bay in 1630 to the onset of the Great Awakening around 1730. During that time Puritan views of commerce and the market changed dramatically from negative to positive. The first Puritan generation in Massachusetts Bay held to an essentially medieval view of commerce where merchants were viewed with suspicion, usury was condemned, and commodities were worth a fixed price (presumably set by God). By the 1730s, a period Valeri accurately labels as post-Puritan, the merchant was viewed as a model citizen whose profit-oriented business methods helped his fellow citizens by supplying them with the goods they wanted at reasonable prices and strengthened the British Empire by playing a major role in the transatlantic trade, the engine that drove British prosperity. …

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