1st Edition

Puritan Family and Community in the English Atlantic World
Being “Much Afflicted with Conscience”

ISBN 9781032092355
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
172 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

Puritan Family and Community in the English Atlantic World examines the dynamics of marriage, family and community life during the "Great Migration" through the microhistorical study of one puritan family in 1638 Rhode Island.

Through studying the Verin family, a group of English non-conformists who took part in the "Great Migration", this book examines differing approaches within puritanism towards critical issues of the age, including liberty of conscience, marriage, family, female agency, domestic violence, and the role of civil government in responding to these developments. Like other nonconformists who challenged the established Church of England, the Verins faced important personal dilemmas brought on by the dictates of their conscience even after emigrating. A violent marital dispute between Jane and her husband Joshua divided the Providence community and resulted, for the first time in the English-speaking colonies, in a woman’s right to a liberty of conscience independent of her husband being upheld. Through biographical sketches of the founders of Providence and engaging with puritan ministerial and prescriptive literature and female-authored petitions and pamphlets, this book illustrates how women saw their place in the world and considers the exercise of female agency in the early modern era.

Connecting migration studies, family and community studies, religious studies, and political philosophy, Puritan Family and Community in the English Atlantic World will be of great interest to scholars of the English Atlantic World, American religious history, gender and violence, the history of New England, and the history of family.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Verins--A Family "Much Afflicted with Conscience"

The Verins and Family History

The Many Puritanisms

A Note about Methodology

Women and the Historical Record in the Early Modern Era

Women’s Agency in the Early Modern Era

Part One: "Gone to New England for Conscience Sake": Family History as New England History

The Verins

Who Were the Puritans?

Patterns of English Migration

A New Community in Providence

The Proprietors

The Antinomians in Rhode Island

Disputes over Land


Part Two: "Piety Tempers Patriarchy": Women of Conscience in the English Atlantic World

Women and Puritanism

Answering Christ’s Call

On Marriage: Puritan Ministerial Literature

The Antinomian Crisis Continued

The Women of Providence

Making Sense of Women’s Experiences

Puritan Prescriptive Literature

Controlling Insubordinate Wives

Barren in Zion

In Women’s Voices

Family Violence in Early New England

Sectarian Groups and Women’s Religious Rights: The Baptists and Quakers

Women’s Spiritual Activism in the English Atlantic World

Pamphlet Culture in the 17th-Century Atlantic World

Part III: "Forced Worship Stinks in God’s Nostrils": Government, Law, and Liberty of Conscience in Puritan New England

The English Context

Puritan Women and English Law

Controlling Insubordinate Wives

On Liberty of Conscience and Forced Conformity

Massachusetts Body of Liberties

The Issues in Transatlantic Context

On John Locke

Conclusion: Women of Obstinate Faith

Works Cited


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Margaret Murányi Manchester is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Providence College, USA. She teaches courses on US history, American women’s history, and diplomatic history. Her current research revisits a spy story involving in Cold War Hungary.