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Puritanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Francis J Bremer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Sep 2009 Very Short Introductions
Written by a leading expert on the Puritans, this brief, informative volume offers a wealth of background on this key religious movement. This book traces the shaping, triumph, and decline of the Puritan world, while also examining the role of religion in the shaping of American society and the role of the Puritan legacy in American history. Francis J. Bremer discusses the rise of Puritanism in the English Reformation, the struggle of the reformers to purge what they viewed as the corruptions of Roman Catholicism from the Elizabethan church, and the struggle with the Stuart monarchs that led to a brief Puritan triumph under Oliver Cromwell. It also examines the effort of Puritans who left England to establish a godly kingdom in America. Bremer examines puritan theology, views on family and community, their beliefs about the proper relationship between religion and public life, the limits of toleration, the balance between individual rights and one's obligation to others, and the extent to which public character should be shaped by private religious belief.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; 1 edition (24 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195334558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195334555
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.9 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 482,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A delightfully rich little volume...An engaging read, enlivened with primary quotes and illustrations, this overview of Puritan political history, beliefs, practices, and interpretation demonstrates the flexibility rather than the rigidness of this fascinating religious culture...Bremer's ShortIntroduction provides an elegant and accessible gateway into this world." --Christian History & Biography

About the Author

is Professor of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. A leading authority on Puritanism, he is the author of the award-winning biography

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important glimpse in the story of Puritanism 12 Jun 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
When one thinks of Puritans and Puritanism (in the US this usually happens around the time of Thanksgiving) one usually thinks of men and women in staid black vestments who are dour in demeanor and extremely strict and bleak in their morals. However, this caricature has more to do with the way that Puritanism was used in the twentieth century as a byword for all sorts of strict moral and religious attitudes than with the real Puritans and their primary concerns. From that standpoint this very short introduction from the Oxford University Press serves as a useful guide to dispelling many of those prevalent myths and prejudices about Puritanism. It places its origins in the right historical and political context, and that is the one of sixteenth and seventeenth England. Puritanism arose in the aftermath of the splitting of the Church of England from the Catholic Church, and its primary impulses were to bring the Church of England further along the line of other protestant churches and get rid of what was perceived as remnants of Catholic practices. Puritans never became a separate and self-contained denomination, but were rather a reform movement within Anglicanism. In their theology they were closer to Calvinism, but overall did not possess a distinct theological tradition.

In England, aside from politics Puritans have had a significant influence on all aspects of public life. John Milton's "Paradise Lost" is a prime example of influence of Puritan ideal on literature and arts. One of the more surprising things that I came away with after reading this book was how quite ordinary Puritans actually were, and how in fact some of the stereotypes we have about them are in actuality quite the opposite of what the reality were.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A joyous surpise - our national heritage 3 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came to this book wanting an account free from the stereotypes of puritanism. My own childhood was significantly shaped by the final echoes of puritan thinking and I wanted to understand it more; to get away from the image of prudish, repressed, prohibitionist busy-bodies and people whose greatest fear was that "someone, somewhere might be happy."
Bremner gives a clear account of the origins of puritanism, what he calls 'the reformation of the Reformation'. He explains the thinking, the historical context and the core beliefs. There are excellent chapters on the puritan's concept of God and what that God required of him. There is a chapter on the puritan way of life too, which holds many pleasant surprises: that they enjoyed a glass of wine, didn't dress in black and (shock) also enjoyed sex. Here is a pattern of belief and thought that hugely influenced this country and was a significant part of the founding of a new country - America.
If there is an issue (four stars, not five) it is that he perhaps spends a little too much time in the early Untied States rather than here at home. There is little of Milton or John Bunyan - the puritan who wrote the most influential and published puritan book in English history. I would like to have seen a link made with the later evangelical movement, now so influential and global, and also the founding of the Brethren movement in Victorian times. Both of these were fundamentally puritan in their origins.
This small comment aside, I whole-heartedly commend this book. It joins the ranks of a fine series of 'Short Introduction' books and is worthy of the heritage. Puritanism is an underestimated and misunderstood part of our national heritage. Please read the book to discover more.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important glimpse in the story of Puritanism 16 Nov 2009
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When one thinks of Puritans and Puritanism (in the US this usually happens around the time of Thanksgiving) one usually thinks of men and women in staid black vestments who are dour in demeanor and extremely strict and bleak in their morals. However, this caricature has more to do with the way that Puritanism was used in the twentieth century as a byword for all sorts of strict moral and religious attitudes than with the real Puritans and their primary concerns. From that standpoint this very short introduction from the Oxford University Press serves as a useful guide to dispelling many of those prevalent myths and prejudices about Puritanism. It places its origins in the right historical and political context, and that is the one of sixteenth and seventeenth England. Puritanism arose in the aftermath of the splitting of the Church of England from the Catholic Church, and its primary impulses were to bring the Church of England further along the line of other protestant churches and get rid of what was perceived as remnants of Catholic practices. Puritans never became a separate and self-contained denomination, but were rather a reform movement within Anglicanism. In their theology they were closer to Calvinism, but overall did not possess a distinct theological tradition.

In England, aside from politics Puritans have had a significant influence on all aspects of public life. John Milton's "Paradise Lost" is a prime example of influence of Puritan ideal on literature and arts. One of the more surprising things that I came away with after reading this book was how quite ordinary Puritans actually were, and how in fact some of the stereotypes we have about them are in actuality quite the opposite of what the reality were. For instance, much like the rest of sixteenth and seventeenth English population Puritans readily consumed alcohol, even in preference to water which was at the time extremely polluted and unsafe to drink. The completely black outfits that are traditionally associated with Puritans were in fact worn only by the elite, since black cloths at the time symbolized high status and were hard to come by. The only accurate idea about them seems to be about their avoidance of theatre and dancing.

In the US Puritanism has a special status due to the nation's founding myth of Pilgrims who had established a colony in present day Massachusetts. For centuries many of the values and ideals that have been ascribed to the Pilgrims have shaped the way that Americans perceive themselves. The actual Puritans are long gone now, but many of their spiritual descendants are still with us in the form of different Protestant denominations. For the sake of better understanding of American religious heritage it is important to know about the origin of these denominations, and this very short introduction is a very useful step in that direction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Insightful Short Study 9 Jan 2010
By Wylie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This 'Very Short Introduction' provides a nice and helpful overview of the politico-religous context in which puritanism developed, grew, and died (though the author also touches on the continuing contributions to American culture that it exercises from beyond the grave: such things as an emphasis on individual responsibility, a focus on education, and a commitment to self-governance). The book also provides a basic outline of the puritan life (both contextualizing events such as witch trials and undermining myths that puritans were 'puritantical': specificially in the areas of sex, fashion, leisure and drink). Basic puritan theology, day-to-day life, and community life are detailed. The book provides a useful foundation to further study of the puritans or can be enjoyed in its own right as a brief excursion into this aspect of Anglo-American history and culture.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read 26 Jan 2013
By Sam G - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a nearly perfect little book on a subject most people are not just ignorant of, but upon which they often hold forth to the detriment of those they are insulting. Bremer gives an excellent overview of Puritan life & theology, as well as some of the positive influences they have had on contemporary English-speaking culture. It doesn't not claim to be an in-depth study of Puritanism, but it definitely gives the reader a thirst for more research and knowledge.
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 26 Aug 2014
By timw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
From page 24, "forcing the king to surrender in 1646." From page 25, "following the king's surrender in 1645." And there you have it on this book. In sum it's a somewhat detailed sketch of the history of the subject and not much else - and clearly not error free. Perspective, proportion, the why and how - the heart - of Puritans and Puritanism is missing. Lacking these, the book reduces to an extended schoolboy's exercise. Examples: arminianism and antinomianism - what are they? The Puritan ethic - what's that? This book mentions but does not tell, especially of the significance of these. Is the book worth a look, even a quick read? Maybe - sure. Worth buying? No. If you want to know a lot about the subject, this book won't do at all. And if you want to know a little, it won't do for that either. Find other books, they're out there. (I like "The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop" (Library of American Biography) by Edmund S. Morgan. But on this subject, reader owes it to him- or herself to make their own survey and choices.)
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a nice introduction that provides enough information to pique the reader's ... 18 July 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just what I expected: a concise history of Puritanism both in England and America. It is a nice introduction that provides enough information to pique the reader's interest for further study.
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