Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England

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This book tells an extraordinary story of the people of early New England and their spiritual lives. It is about ordinary people--farmers, housewives, artisans, merchants, sailors, aspiring scholars--struggling to make sense of their time and place on earth. David Hall describes a world of religious consensus and resistance: a variety of conflicting beliefs and believers ranging from the committed core to outright dissenters. He reveals for the first time the many-layered complexity of colonial religious life, ...
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Worlds Of Wonder, Days Of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England

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Overview


This book tells an extraordinary story of the people of early New England and their spiritual lives. It is about ordinary people--farmers, housewives, artisans, merchants, sailors, aspiring scholars--struggling to make sense of their time and place on earth. David Hall describes a world of religious consensus and resistance: a variety of conflicting beliefs and believers ranging from the committed core to outright dissenters. He reveals for the first time the many-layered complexity of colonial religious life, and the importance within it of traditions derived from those of the Old World. We see a religion of the laity that was to merge with the tide of democratic nationalism in the nineteenth century, and that remains with us today as the essence of Protestant America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hall, history professor at Boston University, proffers as the subject of his sixth book ``religion as lay men and women knew and practiced it'' in 17th century New England. He stresses the significance of the Protestant Reformation in Europe as a people's movement that emphasized the vernacular, as in the Book of Common Prayer, and prepared the ground for spare, ritual-less American Christianity, as exemplified by Cotton Mather's. Hall shows that religion in New England was grounded in almost-universal literacy, enabling colonists to be independent thinkers, even as they argued over dissent, witchcraft and spirituality. His thesis of the religious empowerment of lay people contributes importantly to our understanding of the American heritage. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Noted colonial historian Hall has written an excellent treatment of 17th-century New England religion as it was practiced by the vast majority of the population, not by the clergy. Accepting the current view that the laity absorbed much clerical teaching while adding elements of popular culture to religious practice, he stresses the literacy of ordinary New Englanders and the importance of printers as agents of cultural transmission. An essential purchase for academic libraries, this work offers great insight into Puritan rituals, attitudes toward the natural word, and the creative tension between Puritan laity and clergy.-- Susan A. Stussy, St. Norbert Coll., De Pere, Wis.
Booknews
A paper edition of the 1989 original (Knopf) in which Hall (Harvard Divinity School) lucidly and richly evokes the popular culture of the 17th c. New England. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Journal of American History

Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment is an extraordinarily rich evocation of the popular culture of seventeenth-century New England...A short review can only hint at the methodological brilliance and the interpretive richness of this relatively brief book. Hall succeeds not only in sketching out a new agenda for study of the New England mind but strikes out skillfully on the task of integrating the beliefs of the colonies with their everyday lives.
— Francis J Bremer

Booklist
A remarkable work of cultural history... The mentality described will seem alien yet fascinating to most modern readers, but the hardy souls here depicted are people of rare courage and character. Hall deserves high praise for reopening an intellectual pathway to their world.
Journal of American History - Francis J Bremer
Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment is an extraordinarily rich evocation of the popular culture of seventeenth-century New England...A short review can only hint at the methodological brilliance and the interpretive richness of this relatively brief book. Hall succeeds not only in sketching out a new agenda for study of the New England mind but strikes out skillfully on the task of integrating the beliefs of the colonies with their everyday lives.
Robert Middlekauff
David Hall has written a work of deep learning and great subtlety. In discussing seventeenth-century New England culture, it provides a new way of looking at religious belief Hall demonstrates that old ways simply will not do, and he redefines the character of religion and culture in New England. He has written a brilliant book, one that will stimulate its readers for many years.
Edmund S. Morgan
In this remarkable book David Hall has carried the study of early New England to new levels of understanding...He shows us, as never before, how the sophisticated doctrines of the Puritan clergy meshed, clashed, and merged with the inherited attitudes and assumptions of ordinary people in their day-to-day grappling with the mysteries of their world. This is a model of historical analysis, not merely for what it tells us about early New England, but also for its brilliant insights into the way religion can operate in society.
Michael Kamnien
David Hall's highly innovative new work...provides close reading, profound insights, and trans-Atlantic comparisons that make this a book of very broad significance and interest.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394501086
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/1989
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 316

Meet the Author

David D. Hall is John A. Bartlett Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

1. The Uses of Literacy

2. A World of Wonders

3. The Meetinghouse

4. The Uses of Ritual

5. The Mental World of Samuel

Afterword

A Note on Book Ownership in Seventeenth-Century New England

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

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