History | Puritan, Heretic, Indian, Witch: Religion and Community in Early New England
A300 | 0389 | VanArragon

10:20-11:35A     D     BH208

Above section open to undergraduates only.

Who were the Puritans?  They came to America in the seventeenth
century for freedom of religion–or so it is often popularly assumed.
But the history of Puritan New England was much more troubled and
complicated.  For the Puritans, religious "freedom" or "liberty" did
not imply "toleration," and they constantly struggled with diversity
and cultural pluralism in ways which demonstrate that if religious
freedom was the guiding principle for coming to America, it applied
primarily to themselves.  Proponents of an idealistic vision to build
godly communities, the Puritans found their purposes thwarted by a
succession of obstacles, including internal religious dissent and
external military threats.  They responded to these challenges in both
creative and destructive ways.  Puritan settlers built remarkably
durable churches and towns, but they executed Quaker "heretics" and
carried out a near-genocidal war against local Native Americans.

In this course we will explore the fabric and the paradoxes of
everyday life and religion in early New England.  We will examine the
influence of Puritan beliefs on the shape of families, churches,
towns, and government as well as the limits of community and the
eventual decline of Puritan authority by the early eighteenth century.
In doing so we will visit well-known events like King Philip's War and
the Salem witch trials, meet prominent New England figures like John
Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, and Cotton Mather, and encounter the
private lives and faiths of ordinary New England men, women, and

The course readings will include the following texts:

Michael McGiffert, editor.God's Plot: Puritan Spirituality in Thomas
Shepard's Cambridge 1994
David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgement: Popular Religious
Belief in Early New England 1989
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of
Women in Northen New England, 1650-1750  1980
John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early New
England 1994

Students will also read a number of brief Puritan documents, which
will be distributed in class, and must view the recent film of Arthur
Miller's The Crucible (1996).  The instructor will arrange several
viewing times for the film, which students will analyze in an essay as
part of the final exam.

Course Assignments and Policies:

The readings and film will form the hub for the lectures, discussions,
and assignments during this course.  Students will write brief
response papers (250-300 words) on each of the four books.  These
assignments will serve as a starting point for a class discussion of
the scheduled book; thus late papers will not be accepted except in
the case of emergency absences.  Students will also be graded for
attendance, participation, and a final exam.

Grade breakdown is as follows:
	Book response papers (4 total)--	60% (15% each)
	Final exam–				30%
	Attendance/participation–		10%