Social historian Roger Thompson brings the forgotten and faceless men and women in 17th-century Massachusetts to suggest that records from Middlesex County of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay show that the puritan social system was not so rigid and the relationships between sexes not so regulated as some historians have suggested. The argument of 'Sex in Middlesex' is revisionist: the 'puritans' and 'theocrats' who throng its pages do not behave in accordance with popular stereotype or conform tot he interpretations of major historians.
Thompson analyzes the court records of 17th century Middlesex County, searching for such sexually related crimes as fornication, breach of promise, sexual deviancy, and adultery. His findings help shatter the traditional historical caricature of New England Puritans as patriarchal, dour wife-beaters and child-abusers, a myth eloquently created by Perry Miller and most recently reinforced by Lawrence Stone. In the court records Thompson discovers Puritans who exhibited ``tolerance, mutual regard, affection, and prudent common sense'' within the context of a popular Puritan piety. A well-written social history that places Puritanism in a human rather than an intellectual framework, Sex in Middlesex is recommended for all students of American history and the American family. David Szatmary, Continuing Education, Univ. of Washington, Seattle