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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Social Ethics and Social Practice in Puritan New England: A Reconsideration

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

painting of Puritans around table

David Hall
Harvard Divinity School

Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Time: 12:00-1:15PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Rd

Abstract: In contrast to the customary emphasis on the moral and social authoritarianism of “puritans” in New England, Hall calls attention to themes and practices such as “equity” (justice, fairness), “consent” (as a foundational political principle), and “mutuality” (drawn from New Testament descriptions of Christian community). In this talk, he links these values to specific social and political practices, including what he characterizes as an astonishingly thorough reworking of civil law.

David Hall

David D. Hall is the Bartlett Research Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School. A distinguished authority on 17th century New England and England, he is the author of over a dozen books, including seminal works that have defined the field. His books include The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century; Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England; Puritans in the New World: A Critical Anthology and, most recently, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England (2011). He has edited two key collections of documents: The Antinomian Controversy of 1636-1638: A Documentary History and Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History, 1638-1693. He continues to study and write about religion and culture in early America, with particular attention to "lived religion," and is presently writing a general history of Puritanism in England, Scotland, and New England c. 1550 to 1700, to be published by Princeton University Press.

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In the News

Is anything authentic in our present-day celebrations of Thanksgiving? In "Peace, Love and Puritanism," David Hall discusses what the Puritans hoped to gain by coming to the New World and what values they sought to practice (New York Times Op-Ed, November 23, 2010). On Tuesday, Oct. 18, David Hall spoke at the Boisi Center about social ethics and practices in Puritan New England.