Book Reviews

Wayne E. Lee. Barbarians and Brothers.

It has long been understood that a society or state’s application of violence depends on the status it assigns its enemy. In Barbarians and Brothers, Wayne E. Lee acknowledges this fact by analyzing three and a half centuries of Anglo-American warfare; largely seeking to understand the calculated application of restraint and brutality across a series of English and American case studies. He finds that, although subject to very complicated processes relative to the situational and environmental contexts of a given conflict, the perception of an opponent as fundamentally similar or dissimilar have defined Anglo-American views of war throughout the early modern period and arguably into the present.
Lee’s study is organized chronologically, though segmented into four component thematic sections and a concluding chapter. Part one examines English efforts at fighting and subduing the Irish between 1500-1603, concluding that English efforts were time and again thwarted by the ambiguity of Irish status as neither completely barbarian nor completely reconcilable as brother. Parts two and four turn to the English Civil War and American Revolutionary War, respectively arguing that civil strife complicates the assignment of enemy status by simultaneously prompting an emotive sense of national betrayal and a substantive need for speedy reconciliation. Part three examines Native American warfare against colonists; finding that though highly restrained and sophisticated, Native warfare fell victim to white cultural misconstruction and shrewd political calculation. The conclusion briefly considers the American Civil War. Though treated similar to the civil strife detailed in parts two and four, Lee concludes that the U.S. Civil War was the beginning of an even greater complexity and brutality due to the newly emerged war capacity and technologies of post-industrial nations.
A great achievement of Lee’s work is the successful elucidation of an Anglo-American cultural commonality across relatively divergent adversaries and situational considerations. Although stemming from completely different political crises and ideological stimuli, Lee finds common roots in the English and American Civil wars by illustrating the weight of shared conceptualizations of citizenship and the relationship of citizens to the state. (Lee, 69-73, 95, 108, 232-38) While different in terms of race, religion, and spatial orientation, Anglo-American reactions to both the Irish and Native Americans were defined by the ingrained social and economic value of land and the desire to define citizenship on largely Protestant-Christian and passively racist terms. (Lee, 36-38, 56-59, 151, 155-59, 165-67) Lee’s work, though obviously a military history, clearly demonstrates the value of “New Military History” in reaffirming the role of social and cultural considerations when examining societies at war. (Lee, 2-3) This work might serve as a standard-bearer for the promise of the field.
Of course, Lee’s work is not without flaw. His explanation of barbarian status and how it is assigned is especially problematic. Arguing Indian barbarian status as a result of colonists’ misunderstanding Indian warfare, for example, ignores the fact that by 1650 New England whites and natives understood the other’s art of war enough to replicate their opponent’s tactical style and negotiating strategies. (Lee, 131-35, 148-49) Conversely, if barbarian status was assigned to the Irish, if only partially, Lee’s narrative leaves little room for the eventual inclusion of the Irish as citizens in the British union of 1708. (Lee, 27-29) Surely black Civil War soldiers might have viewed confederates as “barbarians,” and yet they did not. Lee’s ambiguous explanation of “barbarian” might lead the skeptical reader to see some evidence as opportunistic or hand-picked.

Randall, Catharine. From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World. University of Georgia Press, 2009.

In From a Far Country, Randall vividly describes the relationship between the Camisards and Huguenots, two related yet divergent French Protestant groups. She also seeks to place them within a larger context; not only in their relationship to the French state which suppressed them to the point of migration to the New World, but also in relation to their much more studied English counterparts on both sides of the Atlantic. In so doing, she sheds light on the Huguenots and their lesser known counterparts, as well as illustrating their understated impact on the cultures they fled from and to respectively.
As the title suggests, Randall’s approach is decidedly focused on the Atlantic as a conduit for cultural ideas and peoples. She describes the theological and social structures within which these two groups existed, and to some extent thrived in the old world. Moreover, building this contextual basis allows her to explain in greater detail how and why these acquired traits accompanied these groups as they fled France for North America. That is to say, her study is not purely political or religious; it avoids an over emphasis on the theological by balancing realistic social and cultural considerations. In chapters 1-3, Randall describes the Huguenots and Camisards in France. Her explanation in these chapters tends to focus on the groups’ background and formation, with heavy emphasis on their key leaders. Also, she contextualizes the groups by positioning them in relation to each other, as well as the dominant Catholic church from whom they found their primary antagonist in French society. Chapters 4-7 describe how the traits acquired in response to their French reality such as secrecy, ecstatic theology, and cultural adaptability served these groups in North America.
Randall is decidedly successful is her overarching goal of “exploring more fully the relationship between Huguenots and Camisards and to trace their impact on European and, especially, early American culture.” (Randall, 111) Additionally, her description of the “ecstatic nature of worship” incorporated into the theology of both groups implies, though never explicitly asserts, ties between French Protestantism and the rise of Evangelicalism that is generally covered in highly Anglo-centric terms. (Randall, 115-119) This effort is especially useful to historians of trans-Atlantic religious ideas who, sustaining the views of Jon Butler and others, seem to have generally understated the power of French Protestantism aside from its role as a reaction to a heavily Catholic environment. The perpetuation of trans-Atlantic religious histories demands greater attention to those groups usually assigned to the periphery of the larger historiographic conversation.
The work does, however, exhibit some glaring problems. Inculcated group secrecy, one of the defining characteristics assigned to both groups by Randall in response to French oppression and carried with each into North America, was obviously less useful in the far more tolerant environs of British America. She fails to explain why this trait was useful, or necessary, on the other side of the Atlantic. Perhaps more compelling is her failure to make obvious her suggestion that each group’s theology possessed distinctly evangelical traits more than a century before the movement arose in North America. The suggestion is never explicit, and she never puts forth sufficient evidence to justify even a hesitant claim. Her geographic focus on New England in the second half of the book seems unnecessary given her admission that the group settled in areas far afield from the region exclusively. Finally, she demonstrates a heavily reliance on French primary sources; relying, aside from the papers of Cotton Mather, heavily on secondary sources for North American/ English evidence.

Thomas S. Kidd. The Protestant Interest: New England After Puritanism

Thomas S. Kidd’s The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism introduces the author’s enquiry and its answer within the title. Most students of Puritan New England, subsequent to the work of Perry Miller, have struggled to place the region within a more accurate context after the turmoil of Puritan disestablishment under Edmund Andros. Deciphering the effect of the settlement of the English Glorious Revolution on New England has proved equally elusive. Kidd amply reconstructs events within the region from 1689-1730, finding evidence that post-Puritan New England came to imagine itself as part of a transatlantic Protestant front; dedicated to the fight against Catholicism and its earthly agents.
The monograph consists of six chapters structured thematically, though following a rough chronology. Chapter one covers the extensive connections international Calvinist Benjamin Colman maintained with militant Protestant leaders in England, the Netherlands, and France; demonstrating the basis for an imagined transnational front. Chapter two provides context to the threat, real or perceived, from the French until 1713 and chapter three explains how this threat was popularized by New England’s flourishing print culture. Chapters four-six are individual examinations of ideological traits to international Protestantism considering such loosely related themes as Father Rale’s War, the supposed danger of High Jacobism, and regional thoughts on Eschatology, respectively. Kidd’s analysis offers a transatlantic perspective that well serves the scope of his argument, as well as avoiding treating the region in isolation; an approach seasoned historians such as Richard Gildrie have long argued to be untenable. Moreover, his ability to outline fundamental ideological traits within New England offers a more fluid social transition into the revival culture of the Awakening.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Kidd’s work is that it places the post-Puritan New England culture within a larger transatlantic world of ideas and people. His coverage of Benjamin Colman, for example, illustrates the transfer of ideas and changing religious interpretations of contemporary political events from metropolitan Europe to New England, then back again.(Kidd, 29-35.) This approach makes his arguments for an international religious front much more substantive. (Kidd, 71.) Moreover, the well evidenced and articulated use of this perspective makes his auxiliary arguments regarding colonial interpretations of the Hanoverian succession and changes in national identity seem like logical progressions from his thesis rather than supporting assertions.(Kidd, 38, 75.)
As successful as his assertions regarding New England religious culture after the Glorious Revolution are, his argument is proven in the first three chapters. The last half of the book, while consisting of compelling ideological examinations, fails to strengthen the author’s main point and seems oddly disjointed. His coverage of Eschatology(chapter 6), for example, encourages further research in the area but is extremely brief and vague; never contributing to the thesis except to suggest the approach of revival culture. Equally ill-placed is his treatment of the Jacobite threat(chapter 5); again compelling, but too short and unnecessary to the larger point. The addition of the second half of the monograph seems to suggest that Protestant Interest , already slight at 175 pages of text, may have been designed as an article rather than a book. In any case, while well evidenced, these “ideological” chapters would benefit from further elaboration in the interest of giving fair shrift to seminal regional issues, as well as making their support of the larger thesis more obvious.

Jorge Carizares-Esguerra. Puritan Conquistadors: Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700.

Historians of transatlantic religious ideas have perhaps over-emphasized the need to differentiate between the motivational ideologies of competing empires and their colonial exploits. In Jorge Canizares-Esguerra’s Puritan Conquistadores: Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700, this historiographical tendency is openly challenged in favor of the ideological and theological similarities between transnational (English- Spanish) and interdenominational (Protestant-Catholic) colonizing efforts. Esguerra’s main argument is that the religious interpretations for the settlement of the new world allowed British Protestants and Spanish Catholics to rely on very similar religious discourses to explain, and later justify, European conquest and colonization of the Americas. Focusing on how both groups utilized depictions of the Devil in conjunction with representations of American peoples, animals, fauna, and geography, Esguerra argues that complimentary interpretations of a demonic American landscape possessed much more meaning for each group’s colonizing efforts than did an over-emphasized mutual hostility.
In shaping his “Pan-American Atlantic” perspective, Esguerra orders his book processurally around conquest and colonization itself. Accordingly, chapter one deals with the narrative of a Christianizing conquest. He follows in chapter two with an explanation of the dense demonic discourse used to justify expansion into the Americas. Chapters three and four then outline how both British and Spanish colonizers assigned demonic traits to various aspects of the American landscape from its peoples to the geography itself in order to cultivate a European “spiritual garden.” Chapter five then concludes by arguing against a fractionalized Atlantic in favor of a more monolithically European oceanic conduit of ideas. For Esguerra, this perspective is key to illuminating the under-emphasized commonalities of European colonization efforts.
The main strength of Esguerra’s argument, which is well researched and driven by an abundance of primary sources, is that he is successfully able to take two ostensibly dualistic theologies and find a great deal of similarity. His ability, for example, to demonstrate a common religious interpretation of the Americas as the Devil’s domain is remarkable. (Esguerra, 18) Moreover, he uses competing English and Spanish philosophers, writers, magistrates, and explorers to illustrate that, despite given to mutual hostility and vilification, the intellectual constructs employed by each in justifying colonization, and more importantly the Christianization of the Americas, were driven by the same interpretation of the new world as the “garden” of Satan and the colonists as bringers of spiritual renewal. (Esguerra, 9, 29, 214-15)
Esguerra’s work is brave in that it seeks commonality among divergent intellectual trends, but in so doing seems incredibly reductionist. For example, in his haste to prove the similarity between English and Spanish demonic rhetoric regarding the new world, he omits the fact that each viewed the other as one of the main embodiments of the Devil’s efforts. It means little that the rhetoric employed by Spanish and English speakers is comparable when contextualized by the intent of each to disparage the other. Esguerra is perhaps too eager to discount the extreme hostility felt between Protestants and Catholics in order to prove that each sought religious approval of their Imperial efforts; a fact long since recognized by previous historians of Atlantic religious ideas. While his stated intent to reconstruct a “Pan-American Atlantic” is worthy of further consideration, the concept demands further elaboration before any merits can be assigned to it. It also requires consideration of the significant differences between competing religious forces, as well as the varied tactics employed therein.

Carla Gardina Pestana. Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World.

Examining a complex and broad swath of historiographical work, Carla Gardina Pestrana’s Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World attempts a comprehensive study of religion within the British Atlantic empire. She offers an account of the weight of religious ideas in the movement of peoples and ideas across the Atlantic. She also provides an insightful explanation as to how the many convulsions and crises within the empire from the beginning of English/British expansion into the new world until the American revolution informed a shared Protestant cultural identity.
Protestant Empire is organized chronologically, beginning with the tumults of religious and imperial warfare in Europe around 1500 and progressing up until the American and French revolutions around 1800. Chapter one offers a brief survey of religion in Europe at the beginning of expansion into North America. Chapter two explains the effects of the Stuart restoration in England, and the subsequent politicization of religious tensions between Catholics and Protestants. Chapter three, explains how, because these tensions were never fully reconciled, British expansion entailed “exporting the tensions of three kingdoms” newly united under James I in 1603. (Pestrana, 66-68) Chapters four and five each examine the constant flux of religious, and increasingly political, tensions within the empire leading into the seventeenth century and the subsequent growth of religious diversity. Chapter six describes the interaction of these diverse groups within the Atlantic world at the close of the Glorious Revolution. Chapters Seven and Eight conclude with examinations of the effects of the Great Awakening and the American revolution, respectively, and how these events ultimately shaped a religious and cultural identity specific to the British Atlantic.
Pestrana’s greatest strength is her comparative approach to an incredibly complex and diverse religious experience within the British Atlantic. She successfully incorporates the varying political and cultural trends into a coherent picture of the changing imperial identity informed by Protestant religion. Canvassing the effects of the Reformation on Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and English religion, for example, Pestrana finds the emergence of entirely new religiously-driven cultures preceding transatlantic settlement/trade. (Pestrana, 44-60) Additionally, her explanation for the success of “local authority theologies” in British America rests on a compelling synthesis of the “Puritanization” of British religious thought; favoring a hostility to ingrained social hierarchy and extreme doctrinal purity. (Pestrana, 87-90, 112) This well-developed argument provides the framework for her subsequent assertion that the Awakenings and the transatlantic evangelical connections they fostered produced a thoroughly Protestant cultural identity which survived the upheavals that ultimately split the British Atlantic apart. (Pestrana, 212-215)
Protestant Empire’s main strengths lie in close proximity to its most obvious weakness. Relying on a comparative approach, and dedicated to a broad intellectual and chronological scope, Pestrana works with a subject matter that is admittedly “far more complex” than the size of her work allows. Furthermore, she admits that accomplishing the goals of her study are “impossible without the detailed treatments of specific religious communities, or religious institutions” which preceded her own work. (Pestrana, 8-9) Accordingly, her study relies on cursory glances at the experiences of Natives, Africans, and non-Christians in order to make blanket assertions free of the complications that the diversity of Atlantic religious interactions inevitably produces.

R. Todd Romero. Making War and Minting Christians: Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England.

Until fairly recently, the scholarship of interaction and exchange between colonists and native groups in early America has fixated on the many cultural and religious differences therein. R. Todd Romero’s Making War and Minting Christians: Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England offers a different approach to this field of study. Romero illustrates that similar conceptualizations of masculinity, religion, and warfare defined interactions between the two groups equally as much as the many obvious differences. In the process, Romero contextualizes a field of growing interest to scholars of early America.
Making War is organized thematically with almost no attention to chronology. Part one, including chapters one through four, examines Christian views of gender and social hierarchy juxtaposed with those of natives. Romero finds that, while possessed of differing views of the appropriate social role for women, natives and whites shared many views of manhood; especially physical development, economic accomplishment, and martial prowess. Part two, encompassing chapters five through eight, examines how these views affected Christian missionary work among natives. Romero argues that Christian views of native men as slothful and avaricious, qualities that were deemed effeminate by whites, led missionary work to approach native conversion in terms of imparting masculinity and virtue to native men. In turn, natives met English efforts with disdain; themselves convinced that Christian views of women were misguided and harmful. Part three, including chapters nine through eleven, concludes by examining how errant views of each other’s social and religious conceptualizations led whites and natives to hostility and open warfare, which for Romero is the foremost example of the divergent roles of gender and religion within each culture.
Romero’s analysis is complex and nuanced. Using many of the same sources that have led other scholars to emphasize the differences between Christian and native societies, Romero offers a much more contextualized view that gives equal weight to the themes within each culture that demonstrated complimentary social and religious constructs; namely, the role of gender in religious and social interaction, views of what constituted manliness, and political economy. (Romero, 48, 59, 79, 88-94) Embracing the realization that “exchange lies at the heart of this kind of study,” Romero observes the ways that each culture’s view of religion, gender, and war shaped their interactions; sometimes for the better, but often for the worse.(Romero, 9) Moreover, Romero carefully avoids asserting either divergence or similarity over the other in its import to overall cultural exchange; demonstrating that natives and whites emphasized their differences to reinforce their identity rather than overly embracing their counterpart’s complimentary perspectives.(Romero, 196)
The primary weakness to Romero’s work lies in his terminology. Although Romero admits that “none of the following terms are entirely satisfactory,” he then proceeds throughout the monograph to use terms such as “Indians, Natives, Native Peoples, and Native Americans” interchangeably.(Romero, 13) His description of native Christian converts problematically alternates between labels such as “traditionalist” or “non-praying” to describe native religion adherents and “Christian” or “praying” to describe native converts. (Romero, 13, 138-140) Finally, his propensity to label New England’s Christian community, both socially and religiously, as “Puritanism” is impossibly reductionist. Although useful in “describing the common culture and social values” of whites, it fails to consider the variety of colonial religion. (Romero, 14)

A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England. David D. Hall.

Although primarily a scholar of religion in early America, in A Reforming People David D. Hall examines New England’s Puritans from a civic rather than theological perspective. Drawing on a wide range of ecclesiastical, legal, and social sources, Hall seeks to understand how the reformed Protestants who settled New England responded to the New World conditions facing them. Justifying the book’s subtitle, he finds that American Puritans transformed public life by extending more opportunities for civic and ecclesiastical participation; largely in order to respond to the hardships facing the primary settling generation from roughly 1620-1660.
Hall’s work is organized thematically across five chapters. Chapters one and two explore how New England’s Puritans set about constructing colony and town governmental structures, respectively. Hall argues that New Englanders sought a general balance between government models deemed overly arbitrary on one extreme and overly democratic on the other. Chapter three then explains how these government structures became more accessible to common members of society through the ideal of godly rule: the concept that civic enfranchisement was tied to piousness and church membership. Convinced that this model of civic participation had Biblical precedent, Hall explains in chapter four that New Englanders came to use this concept to inform social concerns such as equity, authority, consent, and proportionality. The ideas of equity and proportionality are recurring themes throughout Hall’s work, but these terms are most clearly defined in the final chapter covering land distribution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hall sees the distribution of parcels of land to each of the community’s church members as evidence of social concern with equity being tied to church membership as a precondition for civic and economic power. Hall’s citation of numerous primary sources centered on ideas of equity lend weight to this thematic emphasis and justify his surprise at the dearth of studies on the topic.
Hall’s work is very intelligent and sophisticated; no less so because it approaches American Puritanism from a perspective quite apart from his previous monographs. This perspective successfully avoids the invidious dichotomies which often color our understanding of the New England Congregational way: either the hard-handed theocrats who stifled religious tolerance, or the designers and instigators of subsequent American civic rights and social freedoms. Hall never overtly refutes either perspective, but instead adopts a hybrid approach; arguing that “authority and liberty became intertwined” in an entirely new conceptualization of the civic commonwealth. (Hall, 158-9) Hall’s explanation of ideas of equity and godly rule demonstrates the marriage of these notions, but it also explains the clearest effect of their union: the transfer of civic power from property ownership to church membership. (Hall, 15-16, 62-65, 126-30, 144-47)
Seeking to argue the transfer of power away from property ownership, the inclusion of Hall’s last chapter is paradoxical and, ultimately, detrimental to the clarity of his argument. If American Puritans transformed public life by increasing civic participation and decreasing the importance of land ownership, Hall’s exploration of a community that assigned “highly coveted parcels of land” exclusively to church members in order to support his argument is counterintuitive. (Hall, 132-3, 182, 185) In fact, this specific case suggests American Puritans simply transferred political power from hereditary aristocracy to a membered elite rather than substantially expanding its base across society or deemphasizing the value of property ownership. While still demonstrating public transformation, Hall’s argument depends on the capacity to clearly demonstrate the extent and frequency of church membership across society. So Far this ability has eluded scholars of early American religious history.

Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America. David F. Holland.

The debate regarding the extent to which Christian canon should be either closed or open to new scripture predates the settlement of America by many centuries. In David F. Holland’s Sacred Borders, he examines this debate among Early American religious movements and their leaders. While not suggesting a specific American influence on the debate regarding continuing revelation and canonical growth, Holland does suspect that the debate itself had a formative influence on the evolution of a specifically American early national identity; both secular and religious. Ultimately, he finds that early American religious leaders, from Puritans to Mormons, considered Christian canon closed, but used its closure to inform a tradition of scriptural reinterpretation that ultimately encouraged the great diversity of Protestant groups in the subsequent nation.
Arranged more or less chronologically, the reader soon forgets Holland’s work is constructed around any framework as the narrative is seamless and fluid. Beginning with a brief survey of the larger Christian canonical debate before settlement, Holland’s second and third chapters examine the positions on canonical growth elaborated by Itinerant ministers and colonial religious intellectuals, respectively. Holland finds that although ministers and other intellectuals argued for a closed canon, events such as the Glorious Revolution and the Awakening encouraged skepticism among Christian laity and kept the canonical issue alive, if largely resolved. Chapters four through seven examine how a closed canon forced religious leaders, from new lights of post-Awakening America to later dissenters such as the Mormons or Millerites, to produce new religious movements based on scriptural reinterpretation rather than canonical expansion. For Holland, sacred borders weren’t “crossed, but rather straddled.”
Holland is largely concerned with explaining how theologically narrowed religious movements so powerful at first colonization could evolve into so many, and so varied, dissenting Protestant groups. Owing to the strength of his argument, that canonical restraint encouraged rather than precluded diverse religious growth, this obvious paradox in early American religious history seems more resolvable. Holland aptly demonstrates that as theological dissension might have seemed threatening to the growth of Christianity, the culture of toleration surrounding dissension itself meant that a “strictly closed canon” allowed for the “interpretive space” necessary for the absorption of some religious energy into larger movements and the schism and spread of other groups as equally acceptable ends within the larger goal of advancing Protestant Christianity. (Holland, 85, 92-4, 98) Holland asserts that this reality meant religion in American would forever grapple between “empowerment and restraint.” (Holland, 31)
Despite the strength of his writing, Holland’s work demonstrates a significant structural flaw. Holland’s attempt to make a broad statement regarding canonical restraint from America’ s settlement into the Early Republic forces him to include groups such as the Mormons and dissenting groups born of the Second Great Awakening’s aftermath. However, Holland, himself a Mormon, overlooks or avoids the realization that Mormons did introduce new Christian scripture: the Book of Mormon (including the “Pearl of Great Price” and the “Doctrine and Covenants”). The Millerites, for another example, dabbled in equally ambitious scriptural amendments. If American religious diversity is based on a “consensus regarding canonical restraint,” Holland must either restrict his analysis to a smaller chronological parameter, thus defeating his broader claim, or make room for these obvious exceptions to his argument.( Holland, 164-66)

The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution. Owen Stanwood.

In Empire Reformed, Owen Stanwood looks at how fear can be used in empire building. Surveying the effects of the Glorious Revolution in English America, Stanwood finds that transatlantic fears of Catholicism, though prevalent before the Revolution,initiated in its aftermath a fundamental shift in English political culture. This shift entailed not only a political environment dominated by fears of Popery, but also a new imperial unity embodied by militant Protestantism.
Stanwood’s work is organized into three parts, with the Glorious Revolution itself at the center. Part one examines the political culture in England and America leading into the ascension of James II to the throne. Stanwood argues that James surveyed the empire and found its potential great , but its administration poor. Beginning a program of administrative reform, including the creation of the Dominion of New England, James’ Catholicism and tendency towards stronger Royal prerogative and centralized power increasingly merged the two ideologies in whig minds. Part two examines how this conflation of ideologies served to sew chaos and, eventually, rejoicing in the English colonies. Stanwood asserts that, despite an initial hesitance to question their Sovereign, English Americans quickly joined in the Revolutionary effort to overthrow the Stuarts in favor of William and Mary. For him, this illustrates colonial aspirations for a world Protestant force to combat Catholicism, in addition to more practical desires to reassert colonial power locally. Part three explains how this newly emphasized Protestant identity reshaped English politics; initially, by encouraging a more hostile stance to and fear of Catholic France, but also by producing a dilemma regarding the unresolved issue of power in the empire. By emphasizing the Protestant nature of the Revolution, imperial administrators failed to assign a balance between centralized and local power.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Stanwood’s work lies in his recontextualization of the Glorious Revolution. By portraying the tumultuous event as a punctuation within two consecutive, if divergent, attempts at imperial consolidation and administrative reform, Stanwood successfully separates what the Revolution meant ideologically from its scope and effect practically. (Stanwood, 16-17,108-12, 138-39) Simply put, the success of a Protestant political movement played on anti-Catholic fears and encouraged colonial support, but never allayed the colonial suspicions of centralized imperial power. The need for administrative reform remained, but now carried with it the “taint of Catholic arbitrary and despotic rule, forever retarding the legitimacy of efforts to that end.” (Stanwood, 202-06)
Although Stanwood attempts to define “anti-Catholicism” in great detail in the book’s introduction, his definition loses accuracy due to his geographic preoccupation with New England. Despite obvious reasons for thematically focusing on New England, where the charter revocation and Dominion created the best example of his argument, New England never represented the entirety of anti-Catholic, or even anti-French, views. Stanwood readily admits that anti-Catholicism meant very different things to different colonies, but considers few outside New England and New York in his explanation of the phenomena. (Stanwood, 6-11) Jamestown, one of the few he does consider, represents another weakness on this point. Settled by Anglicans for profit rather than dissenting Protestant tolerance, and largely immune from raids by French or Spanish Catholics, anti-Catholicism in Jamestown looked very different from the more militant strain of New England. (Stanwood, 3-4) Ultimately, arguing anti-Catholicism as a prime mover in colonial political culture requires a more nuanced definition of the term.

Stuart B. Schwartz. All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World

One of the greatest aspects of the transatlantic analytical model is the ability it provides to cover transnational and chronologically diffuse themes in search of ideological interaction and diffusion across cultural boundaries. In All Can Be Saved, Stuart Schwartz applies this model to examine the transmission of Iberian religious ideas regarding toleration in the Spanish and Portuguese new world. Schwartz finds that, despite government and church policies inclined against religious toleration, by the end of the eighteenth century most common Iberians in the new world had embraced a culture of religious tolerance and cultural relativism.
Schwartz’s work is divided chronologically across nine chapters divided into three component parts. In part one, “Iberian Doubts,” Schwartz surveys late-medieval and early modern Iberian religious culture. He finds that leading into colonization, the peninsula had long enjoyed a culture of religious and ethnic diversity; a tradition largely silenced with the coming oppression of the Inquisition. In part two, “American Liberties,” Schwartz examines how this cultural tendency towards religious tolerance, as well as the intolerant state policies which accompanied the Spanish and Portuguese new world conquests, affected the shaping of frontier societies. For Schwartz, the distance and relative cultural ambiguity which the new world offered meant that colonizing Iberians could create a culture “at odds with the dominant ideologies of the Church and state.” (Schwartz, 125) Part three, “Toward Toleration,” provides a summary view of how these “new” cultural constructs informed the spread of religiously tolerant views across the Atlantic; from metripole to colony and then back again. Schwartz argues that by the end of the eighteenth century, popular but hidden views of tolerance and cultural relativism nurtured in the colonies finally began to reform Iberian policies on the issue.
The greatest strength of Schwartz’s work is the conceptual model with which he approaches his topic. For example, given his stated intent to examine attitudes of “common people rather than agents of the Crown or Church,” his transnational, transatlantic approach is expertly chosen and wielded. In using a transnational Iberian view, he is able to illustrate common cultural values and beliefs rather than fixating on religious policies that would have varied between Spain and Portugal and diluted his narrative. (Schwartz, 2, 9) It also allows him to consider the cultural “drift” inherent in transplanting any culture into vastly different environments. (Schwartz, 122-3) Secondly, his conceptual approach relies upon a relatively wide chronological platform spanning from the late-medieval period well into the early modern era. By tracing ideas of tolerance across often arbitrary chronological divides between “early modern” and “medieval,” he demonstrates cultural continuity and illustrates that transatlantic ideas can precede Atlantic interaction itself. (Schwartz, 5) The subsequent use of this chronological, transatlantic model by medievalists such as Amy Remensynder in her forthcoming work La Conquistadora suggests the analytical value of this framework, as well as the potential for interaction between medieval and early modern scholarship.
Schwartz’s search for the “common man” in Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition documentation requires him to rest his encompassing argument on a relatively small and dubious segment of the data pool. Despite making a controversial argument for wide spread cultural views on tolerance, views which contradict a host of preceding scholarship, Schwartz relies on around two hundred cases out of several tens of thousands.(Schwartz, 12-13) Moreover, it requires taking at face value statements often made under duress and within a process which provided little incentive for honesty.

Death in the New World. Erik Seeman

According to Erik Seeman, death was at the forefront of contact with and dispersion into the Americas. Based on this perspective, his book Death in the New World uses death as a thematic lens with which to measure cross-cultural exchange after New World contact between Europeans, Natives, and Africans occurred. For Seeman, the way divergent groups accessed each other’s deathways (practices, rituals, and views regarding death) not only helped each group assess and understand the other, but also served as a platform for both cooperation and competition.

Organized across eight chapters topically into mostly independent case studies, his work begins with a brief survey of Western European, West African, and Native American death practices; primarily examining graves and mortuary practice. In chapter two, Seeman examines first encounter through the lens of Spanish and Indian contact in Central and North America; finding that both Natives and Europeans used their understanding of the other’s death practices as a tool in assessing their values and character. Chapter three continues this theme by examining Jamestown, finding that here, too, settlers and natives sought to understand the other’s deathways; sometimes to understand, and sometimes to wage war. Chapters four and five examine how Europeans and Natives exchanged religious and material views of death in New France and New England, respectively, and chapters six and seven examine the assimilation of African and Jewish deathways into European culture. In each of these four chapters, Seeman finds that each group tried to maintain the meaning of their deathways, even as its material/cultural representation was renegotiated. Chapter eight evaluates that renegotiation at the coming of the Seven Years War; finding that cultural exchange forced changes in deathways even among competing Europeans in the New World.

Although obviously wedded to a single thematic hinge, Seeman’s work illustrates the great potential for historians in accumulating an analytical framework from a wide range of disciplines. In examining African graves and mortuary goods, for example, Seeman draws on anthropological and archeological data to supplement the scarce textual material available on the topic. (Seeman, 22-23, 189-95) By escaping a purely text-driven analysis, Seeman’s work is better prepared to contextualize his thematic hinge in terms which go beyond the usual efforts in Atlantic histories while responding to its inquiries. Archeological data, for example, allows Seeman to comment on the deathways of Indians and Africans; contextualizing the far more numerous sources on European practices, but also offering insight on two groups understudied in the field. (Seeman, 55-64, 124, 147-9, 218) His study of Jewish views on death accomplishes several aims; showing the worth of non-Christian scriptural sources and larger anthropological studies for the Early Modern historian, while offering a way forward for the inclusion of Jewish narratives in Atlantic exchange. (Seeman, 8, 234, 258-59)

This interdisciplinary approach, however, sometimes makes his argument seem selective and arbitrary. His coverage of African deathways, for example, relies heavily on often speculative archeological data to make broad, reductionist conclusions regarding variant slave mortuary practices contrary to more focused works such as Vincent Brown’s The Reaper’s Garden. (Seeman, 209-13). Seeman’s coverage of Native deathways, despite his admission of its cursory nature, fails to consider the large variety of Native cultural practice. (Seeman, 97, 115, 153)From this perspective, his argument’s reliance on non-textual sources seems overly selective and tactical rather than unavoidable.

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