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Breaking the Puritan mould Atlantic History and the Historiography of New England Agnès Delahaye Lyon 2 Lumière Atelier Amérique du Nord 19 novembre 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Breaking the Puritan mould Atlantic History and the Historiography of New England Agnès Delahaye Lyon 2 Lumière Atelier Amérique du Nord 19 novembre 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Breaking the Puritan mould Atlantic History and the Historiography of New England Agnès Delahaye Lyon 2 Lumière Atelier Amérique du Nord 19 novembre 2009

2 Exceptionalism and historiography The Great Migration, New England and the “City upon a Hill” Harvard historiography and the New England heritage tradition Miller and the American consensus Atlantic history since the 1990s The Puritan paradigm becomes obsolete How to approach the archive? A God-free alternative to the founding narrative

3 The City upon a Hill

4 A Modell of Christian Charity April 1630 “We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies ; when he shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, ‘the Lord make it like that of New England.’ For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.”

5 The City upon a Hill The Modell of Christian Charity as a foundational text of Massachusetts constitutional life The heritage tradition of New England – Winthrop the Governor (Hubbard, Mather, Hutchinson) – The MHS and the publication of Winthrop’s works The biographical mode: – The Puritan Dilemma (Morgan, 1959) – The Forgotten Founding Father (Bremer, 2000) A trope of US nationalism

6 Harvard historiography The heritage tradition and the academic paradigm are convergent : the Massachusetts Historical Society and Harvard College (Tucker) Miller: The New England Mind (1939, 1953) Miller: The Errand into the Wilderness (1956) The tradition of Harvard Puritan Studies and US literature (Bercovitch, Holland, Staloff)

7 Boston Charter Day Celebrations, 2004 Friday, September 10 Panel discussion at the Boston Latin School Sumus Primi: The Founding Generation & the Athens of America A panel discussion on the lasting effects of the founding generation on establishing Boston as the "Athens of America.” Panelists will discuss such topics as Is there a spirit that endures through the ages, even as a community changes beyond recognition? How is the city’s people and historic character tied with today’s challenges? Can a city that began as a narrow gathering of like-minded people flourish into a teeming place of diversity - without losing the sense of common ground essential to any great city? What kinds of sacrifices must Bostonians make to become the city upon a hill? Panelists include Professor Francis J. Bremer, editor of The Winthrop Papers; Professor Thomas O'Connor, University Historian of Boston College; Lawrence DiCara of Nixon Peabody; Judy Cammack, former Mayor of Boston, England; Eve LaPlante author of American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans; and Professor David D. Hall of the Harvard Divinity School. Barry A. Cotton, Winthrop Society Chairman and Rev. John Cotton descendant will moderate this discussion.This event is sponsored by the Boston Latin School, the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, the Partnership of Historic Bostons, and the Winthrop Society. _________________________

8 Miller in the 1950s What happened between the New England Mind and the Errand? Why the idea of mission? WWII and Miller in the OSS A Chair in US literature in 1946 Suspicious of materialism and social history The pressure of Harvard Exceptionalism (Guyatt, 2002) The Puritan paradigm as an exceptionalist stance: Literature vs. social history

9 Atlantic history Social history 1960s-1980s: New England in the Early Modern Period of English history (Town Studies, Bremer) Late 1980s: New British history and Irish history (Pocock, Beers Quinn, Canny, Mancall, Armitage) Race, gender and class: recognizing the diversity of the American experience (Nash, Henretta, Breen) Borderland history: imposing comparative methodology (Richard White) Cultural history: breaking the reliance on the empirically verifiable narrative: the body, the public sphere, discourse, ritual and print culture (Round, Hall, Burnham, Kamensky) Ethno-history, hybridity and creolization: processes and evolution through cultural interaction, adaptation and exchanges (Axtell, Greene, Appleby) Post-colonial theory not applicable because white colonization outlasted the Revolution

10 Puritan paradigm outdated Variety of colonial experiences Monolithic vs. diversity Puritanism constantly re-negotiated (Collinson) Orthodoxy vs. conflict (L. Breen) Town studies vs. borderlands Englishness vs. colonial experience – A sense of place, the identification of goals, the insistence on standards, a sense of history

11 The issues The sources The context of publication The heritage tradition Politics… and faith The power of exceptionalism Definition of colonial

12 A god-free alternative Acknowledging the context Refusing to label economic and social behavior as Puritan Going back to the MBC’s records Reading the Journal as a performative text, a promotional history Winthrop as a historically-minded colonial leader


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