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The Puritans: A Transatlantic History (Hall)

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Princeton University Press


This book is a sweeping transatlantic history of Puritanism from its emergence out of the religious tumult of Elizabethan England to its founding role in the story of America. Shedding critical new light on the diverse forms of Puritan belief and practice in England, Scotland, and New England, David Hall provides a multifaceted account of a cultural movement that judged the Protestant reforms of Elizabeth’s reign to be unfinished. Hall’s vivid and wide-ranging narrative describes the movement’s deeply ambiguous triumph under Oliver Cromwell, its political demise with the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, and its perilous migration across the Atlantic to establish a “perfect reformation” in the New World.

A breathtaking work of scholarship by an eminent historian, The Puritans examines the tribulations and doctrinal dilemmas that led to the fragmentation and eventual decline of Puritanism. It presents a compelling portrait of a religious and political movement that was divided virtually from the start. In England, some wanted to dismantle the Church of England entirely and others were more cautious, while Puritans in Scotland were divided between those willing to work with a troublesome king and others insisting on the independence of the state church. This monumental book traces how Puritanism was a catalyst for profound cultural changes in the early modern Atlantic world, opening the door for other dissenter groups such as the Baptists and the Quakers, and leaving its enduring mark on what counted as true religion in America.


David D. Hall is professor emeritus of American religious history at Harvard Divinity School. His books include Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England, and The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.


"Hall provides an in-depth and erudite study that scholars will find quite useful . . . . A well-researched study of the Puritans."

—Kirkus Reviews

"Mr. Hall’s magisterial work provides a ground-breaking international history of this controversial religious movement as it emerged in the Old World and evolved to shape the New. . . . His voluminous endnotes compress many decades of wide reading into what will become one of the definitive histories of its subject."

—Crawford Gribben, Wall Street Journal

"A quite remarkable read. The Puritans is measured yet powerful, subtle yet eloquent. Every page of this compelling book testifies to Hall's enviable erudition, delivered in a way that makes it accessible to specialists and general readers alike."

—Philip F. Gura, author of American Transcendentalism: A History

"This is a stunning achievement, a magisterial account of religious, cultural, and political change in early modern Scotland, England, and New England. No one understands the Puritans better than David Hall, and his comparative perspective casts everything about them in a fresh light—it's all here, brilliantly interpreted."

—E. Brooks Holifield, author of Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War

"The Puritans is a remarkable and extraordinarily effective account of the geographical spread of ideas of godliness throughout Britain and the Atlantic world during the whole of the long Reformation. In this exceptionally well written and eloquent book, Hall distills sixty years of deep engagement and reflection."

—John Morrill, Selwyn College, Cambridge

"In this powerful and engaging book, David Hall takes on the Puritan movement in its entirety, deftly reminding us of the centrality of religious conflict in the making of modern states while remaining ever sensitive to the nuances of belief and practice in the shaping of religious cultures. The Puritans stands as the capstone to Hall's distinguished career."

—Mark Peterson, author of The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630–1865

"David Hall, the acknowledged master of American Puritan studies, has crossed the Atlantic to bring England and Scotland into the contextual mix, finally making sense of a phenomenon too often wrenched from its own roots. At last we have a truly comprehensive account of Puritanism, beautifully written—as one would expect of this author—and compellingly argued."

—Margo Todd, author of The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland

"David Hall's new transatlantic history of Puritanism draws on a lifetime of scholarly wisdom to offer a thought-provoking perspective on an old problem. With characteristic authority and lucidity, Hall tells a compelling story of deep theological convictions and passions that shaped sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Britain and New England in profound and unpredictable ways."

—Alexandra Walsham, author of The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland