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John Winthrop


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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.


Today John Winthrop (1588-1649) is perhaps best remembered for the famous sermon in which he likened the Massachusetts Bay Colony to a "city upon a hill," a model to the world of social and religious order. Bremer, editor of the Winthrop papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society, draws on those papers to add tremendously to our understanding of this pivotal figure, eloquently reminding us in a rich, magisterial biography how much Winthrop contributed to the founding of the colonies. Bremer studies Winthrop's early life in exhaustive detail, chronicling how his first four decades, in England, shaped his views and actions as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bremer focuses on his youthful spiritual struggles, carefully recorded in a journal, including his early decision to pursue a religious vocation and his sudden, unexplained decision to give that up to marry his first wife when he was only 17. After he gained the respect of his peers as an even-handed magistrate, he was elected governor of the new Massachusetts Bay Colony, where for eight years he governed with a judicious hand, mediating in religious and political feuds, including the expulsions of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson for their dissenting views. Bremer uses previously unavailable materials in the Winthrop archives to vividly recreate the religious and political reform movements in early 17th-century England. Bremer's definitive biography gracefully portrays Winthrop as a man of his time, whose influence in the new colony grew out of his own struggles to establish his identity before he left England. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

...this is a biography that has no equivalent for the early parts of his life and goes on to provide an exemplary narrative and analysis of his years in Massachusetts...a text that will have to be engaged with by all students of the first period of New England. * The Seventeenth Century, Volume 10, Issue 2 *

Bremer (The Puritan Experiment; history, Millersville Univ.), the editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society, presents an impressive, scholarly analysis of the life of John Winthrop (1588-1649), the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop is best known for his 1630 "Christian Charity" sermon, which provided the defining metaphor of America as "a City upon a Hill." Most Winthrop biographers have ignored the first 42 years of his life, but here Bremer provides a fully developed critical analysis of Winthrop's entire 61 years, including his important formative years in England. Drawing on ten years of exhaustive research into original archives, including Winthrop's extensive personal writings, Bremer organizes this impressive biography into three parts: a detailed background of the lives of Winthrop's grandfather, father, and uncles; a review of Winthrop's youth, education, and rise to a position of governmental responsibility in England; and, of course, the more familiar story of Winthrop's role in the founding and shaping of Massachusetts. All the while, Bremer maintains a keen concentration on interpreting Winthrop's actions by reference to his English heritage. Bremer's work surpasses the shorter versions in Edmund S. Morgan's The Puritan Dilemma and Elizabeth R. Connelly's John Winthrop. Highly recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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