History is one of those subjects that people seem to typically find boring. Despite this history has always been a rather enjoyable subject for me. Today we’ll be looking at a book on the history of the Puritans, New England’s Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century by Virginia DeJohn Anderson. It’s a mouthful of a title to be sure and maybe doesn’t even sound the most interesting. Let’s talk a little more about the book behind the title though shall we?
To be honest, I was a little worried it was going to be a dry read. My worries were rather unfounded though. It wasn’t too dry and was actually pretty engaging, at least considering that it was a scholarly book on history. Anderson explores the emigration of the Puritans from England to New England. Her particular focus is on how different the emigration to New England was compared to other emigrations happening within the same time period.
Anderson does this a number of ways. She looks at the demographic makeup of those who settled in New England by looking at wealth, family size, and age. She examines the motivations of those who traveled to New England. She also analyzes the way New England was settled and how the colonists went about their life early on in their new home. What she finds is that the settlement of New England was quite different in makeup and in motivation than other early settlements in North America.
While her idea that the Great Migration was rather unique seemed rather easy to prove, I found her treatment of the subject matter well done. She wove the faith of the Puritans throughout the book and presented it in a rather neutral way. She was able to position the big picture of the migration next to smaller portraits of individuals and families who made the trip.
If you’re interested in history I found it to be a interesting read. Shows an interesting picture of how the puritans tried to order a new society in their settlement of New England without getting too complicated. I wound up enjoying it. I learned some interesting information about the settling of New England, and also found that even as early as the Puritans were people lamenting over the shortcomings of the next generation. It is still a history book, so it won’t make you like history, but I did find it interesting and not as dry as the title may lead you to believe.