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Prologue

Pilgrims, Puritans, and the Origins of America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Kristina Bross
Affiliation:
Washington University, St Louis
Abram Van Engen
Affiliation:
Purdue University, Indiana
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Summary

The Prologue orients readers to the classic tradition of American exceptionalism based in the Pilgrims and puritans, explaining how that tradition arose and to what effect. Sketching the development of a “puritan origins” thesis from the early republic through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the prologue ends in 1990, when a recognizable shift in puritan studies gained momentum. The Prologue gives readers a sense of how American collective memory built a story of noble Pilgrims fleeing persecution and establishing religious freedom on American shores. Pilgrim anniversaries of Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower landing were traditionally meant to celebrate and venerate an exceptional story of America rooted in New England and attributed to the singular virtues and values of the puritans. Yet even when scholars, politicians, pundits, and commentators turned against the puritans and despised them for various reasons, they still wrote stories in which the puritans were held responsible for all that the United States had become. Whether in love or hatred, in both praise and condemnation, the “puritan origins” thesis guided a great deal of American puritan studies throughout the twentieth century.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Prologue
  • Edited by Kristina Bross, Washington University, St Louis, Abram Van Engen, Purdue University, Indiana
  • Book: A History of American Puritan Literature
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108878425.002
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  • Prologue
  • Edited by Kristina Bross, Washington University, St Louis, Abram Van Engen, Purdue University, Indiana
  • Book: A History of American Puritan Literature
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108878425.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Prologue
  • Edited by Kristina Bross, Washington University, St Louis, Abram Van Engen, Purdue University, Indiana
  • Book: A History of American Puritan Literature
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108878425.002
Available formats
×