John Winthrop

John Winthrop : America's Forgotten Founding Father

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Description

The preeminent figure of early New England, John Winthrop was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. More than anyone else, he shaped the culture of New England and his effort to create a Puritan "City on a Hill" has had a lasting effect on American values. In "John Winthrop", Francis J. Bremer draws on over a decade of research in England, Ireland, and the United States to offer a superb biography of Winthrop, one rooted in a detailed understanding of his first forty years in England. Indeed, Bremer provides an extensive, path-breaking treatment of Winthrop's family background, youthful development, and English career. His dissatisfaction with the decline of the "godly kingdom of the Stour Valley" in which he had been raised led him on his errand to rebuild such a society in a New England. In America, Winthrop would use the skills he had developed in England as he struggled with challenges from Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, among others, and defended the colony from English interference. We also see the personal side of Winthrop - the doubts and concerns of the spiritual pilgrim, his everyday labors and pleasures, and his feelings for family and friends.And, Bremer also sheds much light on important historical moments in England and America, such as the Reformation and the rise of Puritanism, the rise of the middling class, the colonization movement, and colonial relations with Native Americans. Incorporating previously unexplored archival materials from both sides of the Atlantic, here is the definitive portrait of one of the giants of our history.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 496 pages
  • 162 x 236 x 40mm | 920.79g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 16pp halftones, 4 maps
  • 0195149130
  • 9780195149135

Review quote

Bremer has drawn contemporary and later sources into a continuous narrative, and made an important contribution to early North American history. British readers for whom the first part of the 17th century means the Caroline divines and the poetry of George Herbert will be reminded that there were other equally honourable aspects of Christian life at this time. Church Times [An] accomplished biography, a work of patient and devoted scholarship and of measured and persuasive judgement. Blair Worden, Times Literary Supplement ... a formidable volume embodying much original research ... Francis Bremer has produced a large scale portrait. Paul Johnson, Literary Review The biography that John Winthrop deserves. Suffolk Journal Mr Bremer attempts to drag the Winthrop story out of the mists of 17th century Puritanism. He also presents a flawlessly researched academic argument for reinstalling him as one of the true founding fathers of modern-day America. It was perhaps his 'City on a Hill' sermon, which set the most enduring moral blueprint for the country. Certainly then, John Winthrop's is a story that deserves to be told. Suffolk Journal Bremer creates an appealing portrait of Winthrop as a leader and as a man of religious faith. The Sun (New York) ... nicely presented ... and exceedingly well-researched and footnoted. The Sun (New York) A wonderful achievement. The story of Winthrop's pilgrimage from unendurable stress in the Old World to endurable stress in the New World is captured with a freshness and vividness that kept me enthralled ... This is one of the great early modern biographies. John Morrill, University of Cambridge This is an important book for both students of English and American history. Not to be missed. Margaret Brown, The Historical Associationshow more

About Francis J. Bremer

Francis J. Bremer is Editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society. A pioneer in the trans-Atlantic approach to early American history, he has been a visiting scholar at Oxford and Cambridge. He is Professor of History at Millersville University and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.show more

Review Text

Richly researched life of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor, arguing that the Puritan leader was more moderate than history has conveyed. Editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society, Bremer (History/ Millersville Univ.) overflows with information about period customs and culture on both sides of the Atlantic; in fact, 67 pages pass before John Winthrop (1588-1649) is even born. The author has visited all the relevant sites, European and American, and unearthed myriad details about Winthrop's daily life, political views, religious struggles, and family difficulties. One of Bremer's great achievements is to add flesh to the previous, skeletal portraits of Winthrop's life in England before he sailed west in 1630; almost half the text deals with these slighted decades. We learn, for example, that Winthrop very nearly emigrated to Ireland instead of Massachusetts and that death was a regular, unwelcome visitor to his household; he buried children and wives with a frequency alarming even for the age, though his fourth spouse survived him. Of course, much remains hidden. We do not know, for example, which grammar school Winthrop attended or why the 17-year-old rushed to marry a woman four years his senior (it wasn't due to prenuptial pregnancy). Bremer capably explores New England's internecine politics: colonies competing with one another, religious men striving piously for earthly power, ever-present concerns with the situation back in England, which was always "home" to these early arrivals, the author reminds us. Wars with Indians and punishments of heretics punctuate the narrative. Unfortunately, Bremer's prose is not always commensurate with his sterling research. Each chapter begins with a superfluous "vignette" that clutters rather than clarifies (e.g., "It is a fine June day in 1643"), the figurative language rarely strays from the conventional, and an epilogue offers mostly platitudes. Still, despite some stylistic flaws, this scholarly makeover adds considerable color to Winthrop's wan cheeks. (15 halftones, 4 maps, not seen) (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

61 ratings
3.81 out of 5 stars
5 25% (15)
4 43% (26)
3 25% (15)
2 7% (4)
1 2% (1)
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