The best books on seventeenth-century America

Jenny Hale Pulsipher Author Of Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England
By Jenny Hale Pulsipher

The Books I Picked & Why

The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather

By Michael G. Hall

The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather

Why this book?

Hall's biography of one of the most influential Puritans in colonial New England offers a rich reading experience. Mather had a finger in everything, and seeing New England through his eyes helps the reader make sense of the political and religious factions, doctrinal struggles, the relationship between lay people and ministers (always less conservative than their followers), and the sweetness and suffering inherent in family life.


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American Slavery, American Freedom

By Edmund S. Morgan

American Slavery, American Freedom

Why this book?

This is a classic of American history from one of our greatest historians. Morgan was a master of both the art and the craft of history, and that skill is on full display in this account of the Virginia Colony from its early seventeenth-century founding, through a series of Native American/colonial wars, to the rise and solidification of American chattel slavery. Morgan insightfully probes the question of how a nation founded on liberty could give rise to the extremes of slavery and freedom.


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Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

By Daniel K. Richter

Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

Why this book?

In Facing East, Richter uses both historical research and imagination to shift the perspective on early America from the west-facing European view to the east-facing Native American one. The result is a deeply researched, well written, and surprisingly moving book exploring a series of Native lives (Pocahontas, King Philip, Kateri Tekakwitha), events (Christian Indian missions, King Philip's War, the French and Indian War), and subjects (Native American trade, religion, the expansion of the English Empire).


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Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676

By Walter W. Woodward

Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676

Why this book?

Woodward's biographical approach, and his good fortune in finding a subject who left so much material to peruse, allows readers to come to know early New England in rich detail. Winthrop was a man of wide interests, including alchemy, religion, and medicine, and he used his knowledge to contribute to the physical well being of his neighbors (Native and colonist alike), to steer the Connecticut Colony through political challenges, and to participate in trans-Atlantic scientific exploration. A fascinating read.


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Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750

By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750

Why this book?

Ulrich, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Midwife's Tale, first wrote this ground-breaking study of women in early New England. With her characteristically elegant prose and inspired organization, she details the varied roles women played in family, community, and religious life. An illuminating work, and a page-turner.


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