The Making of an American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts / Edition 1

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This pathbreaking study offers a radical new interpretation of the political, religious, and intellectual history of Puritan Massachusetts. More than simply a theologically inspired Biblical commonwealth, the church state of the Bay Colony was a seventeenth-century one-party state, where congregations served as ideological cells. Authority within this "regime" was restricted to an educated elite of ministers and magistrates, who used their biblicist and high-cultural expertise to legitimate their empowerment. The course of events in Puritan Massachusetts was dictated by the struggles of laypersons against this Puritan "thinking class," eventually leading to the erosion of the Puritan intellectuals' political authority and the colony's transformation into a Puritan lay republic in the years before the loss of the charter. By highlighting the ways in which godly intellectuals fomented a new ideological politics and thus destabilized traditional political authorities, Staloff has raised questions about the presumed moderation of the Puritan movement, revealing its potentially radical and innovative side. More generally, this work offers a strategy for synthesizing the hitherto disparate fields of social and intellectual history by treating intellectuals as a distinct social group with their own interests and agendas.
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Editorial Reviews

Alden T. Vaughan
Invigorating....By reading the sources with an uncommonly keen eye for the nuances of power, Staloff sheds new light on many heretofore slighted aspects of Massachusetts history....Old hands at Puritan studies as well as newcomers to the field will profit immensely from this insightful book. -- Alden T. Vaughan, Columbia University
From the Publisher
"An invigorating contribution to the scholarly literature on Puritan New England—original in perspective, forceful in argument, and graceful in presentation. In Staloff's sophisticated retelling, the emergence to authority in Massachusetts of certain intellectuals (clergymen) and intelligentsia (magistrates) as a 'thinking class' shaped the Puritan stronghold's politics and cultural life until 1686. By reading the sources with an uncommonly keen eye for the nuances of power, Staloff sheds new light on many heretofore slighted aspects of Massachusetts history as well as such old chestnuts as the banishing of Roger Williams, the squelching the Quakers, and the jousting over the Halfway Covenant. [Staloff] also offers perceptive new assessments of the Bay Colony's major personalities, including John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, and Increase Mather. Old hands at Puritan studies as well as newcomers to the field will profit immensely from this insightful book."—Alden T. Vaughan, Columbia University

"In all probability, [Staloff's book] will quickly become the one book that everyone will read and assign to get into the mind and culture of Puritan New England."—John M. Murrin, Princeton University

"Darren Staloff's analytical categories of class and power provide the structure for what is both an excellent social history of political conflicts and a useful political history of religious events. His account gives new, provocative twists to old stories like the Hutchinson trial, disputes over the charter, and the Halfway Covenant...Staloff's dramatic and nuanced narrative reveals not only the interplay of class and power but also the considerable influence of personalities and ideas."—illiam and Mary Quarterly

"It offers a genuinely ironical way to understand the New England Puritans' lurch into modernity, a topic of neverending interest to scholars in this field."—Reviews in American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195149821
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Darren Staloff is Assistant Professor of History at City College of New York.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Struggle for the Company 3
1 The Creation of the New England Way: Cultural Authority and the Puritan Thinking Class 11
2 John Cotton, Roger Williams, and the Problem of Charisma 26
3 John Cotton and the Dialectic of Antinomian Dissent 40
4 Antinomianism Defeated 55
5 Ordering the One-Party Regime 73
6 Establishing Orthodoxy 91
7 From the Cambridge Platform to the Half-Way Covenant 114
8 The Restoration and the Politics of Declension 143
9 Increase Mather and the Decline of Cultural Domination 169
App. A: Key Terms 189
App. B Toward a Postrevisionist Interpretation of Puritanism: Religion, Society, and Politics 192
Notes 207
Index 269
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