No previous work on John Eliot's mission to the Indians has told such a comprehensive and engaging story. Richard Cogley takes a dual approach: he delves deeply into Eliot's theological writings and describes the historical development of Eliot's missionary work. By relating the two, he presents fresh perspectives that challenge widely accepted assessments of the Puritan mission.
Cogley incorporates Eliot's eschatology into the history of the mission, takes into account the biographies of the proselytes (the "praying Indians") and the individual histories of the Christian Indian settlements (the "praying towns"), and corrects misperceptions about the mission's role in English expansion. He also addresses other interpretive problems in Eliot's mission, such as why the Puritans postponed their evangelizing mission until 1646, why Indians accepted or rejected the mission, and whether the mission played a role in causing King Philip's War.
This book makes signal contributions to New England history, Native American history, and religious studies.
Based on a decade and more of research, this book offers a full and balanced treatment of the work of the most notable English missionary to native Americans in the 17th century and one of the half-dozen most intriguing personalities in early New England. Cogley brings to the study a fuller grasp of Puritan thought than previous students of the subject. He sheds fresh light on English and native cultures, the style and psychological functions of Eliot's famous praying towns, and the distinctively 'puritan' element in the place and period. With no ideological axe to grind, and grasping Eliot's project within the larger sweep of Puritan religious and eschatological ideals, he offers a number of correctives to prevalent views of Eliot's mission as a tool of English cultural and geographical imperialism. His argument, that the mission was more a way to counteract rather than to aid English domination, will spark lively debate.
The emergence of new approaches to Indian history in the 1970s brought a dramatic shift in scholarly treatments of John Eliot This book is an attempt to restore balance to the subject. Richard Cogley devotes much of the work to addressing such criticisms, particularly those of Francis Jennings, and makes a persuasive case for swinging the pendulum back Though his focus is clearly different from that of Jennings and others, Cogley also works to give the Indian perspective, noting ways they used the mission to advance their material well-being and authority within English and Indian cultures.
Cogley's greatest contribution to Eliot research has always been his insistence that the 'theology' of the mission is as important as (indeed inseparable from) its practice Cogley provides the fullest picture we have of the Eliot mission within its English religious, political, and transatlantic contexts; and for this his book is of considerable value.
Cogley truly understands the seventeenth century's theological literature...[He] also understands the Puritan ministry--how it worked and how it expressed itself. His thorough grounding in Puritan religious thought, and the fact that he doesn't himself subscribe to Puritan ideology or have any stake in glorifying New England history, make Cogley the ideal scholar to explicate fairly the missionary program. And because Cogley is familiar with the full range of primary and secondary literature on the missionaries and on their Indian proselytes, he is able to give a perceptive, thorough, and persuasive portrait of the Puritan program. I consider Cogley's book the most original and important contribution to Puritan missionary studies that we've ever had and a very important addition to the larger and equally lively field of New England Puritan studies.
Smartly and provocatively, this book contests prevailing views of Puritan missionizing, and I predict that it will cause a major stir among historians of Puritanism, colonial New England, early American religion, and Eastern Woodlands Native Peoples. It presents a more complete and textured view of Eliot's work than we have previously possessed. No one before has grasped Eliot's project in its entirety. Moreover, no one has delved so carefully into Eliot's theology of mission...This book is important for the dialogue it will generate; scholars will have to re-evaluate the revisionist position very carefully.
- 352 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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