Puritanism and the Wilderness: The Intellectual Significance of the New England Frontier, 1629-1700

By Peter N. Carroll | Go to book overview

PART I
TWO WORLDS

IN March 1629, Charles I abruptly dismissed a rancorous Parliament and embarked on an era of personal rule. For Puritans throughout England, the royal decision signaled the defeat of the forces of reformation. Nervous about the future of their country, many of these disenchanted men now began to consider the possibility of departing, from their native land to erect a godly commonwealth in America. As they projected their hopes to the lands beyond the Atlantic Ocean, the vision of the New World captivated their imaginations and excited their minds. Influenced by promotional literature and inner expectations rather than by concrete experience, the Puritan colonizers articulated their notions of America in ambiguous language. The wilderness continent meant different things to different people, and Puritan views of America ranged from a paradise to a wasteland.

Separating the vision from the reality lay the Atlantic Ocean. This vast sea played a dual role in the formation of New England society. It led the colonists into new realms of experience and, at the same time, sealed them off from the familiar world of the English countryside. Thus as a channel and as a barrier the Atlantic influenced the colonial mind from the beginning of settlement and figured prominently in the Puritans' quest for identity in New England.

The European vision of America, nevertheless, provided limited preparation for the initial contacts with the virgin continent. When confronted by the wilderness, the Puritans' ambiguous notions of the New World produced contradictory

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Puritanism and the Wilderness: The Intellectual Significance of the New England Frontier, 1629-1700
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Two Worlds 5
  • Chapter I - The Good Land 7
  • Chapter II - Sad Stormes and Wearisom Dayes 27
  • Chapter III - A New World 45
  • Part II - The Symbolic Wilderness 61
  • Chapter IV - A Sorrowful Estate 65
  • Chapter V - A Place of Safetie 87
  • Chapter VI - The Pleasant Gardens of Christ 109
  • Part III - A Wilderness Society 127
  • Chapter VII - The Welfare of This Commonwealth 131
  • Chapter VIII - The Unity of the English Colonyes 161
  • Chapter IX - The Further Improvement of the Wildernes 181
  • Chapter X - A Smart Rod and Severe Scourge 199
  • Epilogue 223
  • Selected Bibliography 225
  • Index 241
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