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Puritanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 24 Sep 2009
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"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 Short Introduction provides an elegant and accessible gateway into this world." --Christian History & Biography
About the Author
Francis J. Bremer is Professor of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. A leading authority on Puritanism, he is the author of the award-winning biography John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.