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The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649

The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649

John Winthrop

Edited by James Savage, Richard S. Dunn, and Laetitia Yeandle

ISBN 9780674484252

Publication date: 11/01/1996

For 350 years Governor John Winthrop's journal has been recognized as the central source for the history of Massachusetts in the 1630s and 1640s. Winthrop reported events--especially religious and political events--more fully and more candidly than any other contemporary observer.

The governor's journal has been edited and published three times since 1790, but these editions are long outmoded. Richard Dunn and Laetitia Yeandle have now prepared a long-awaited scholarly edition, complete with introduction, notes, and appendices. This full-scale, unabridged edition uses the manuscript volumes of the first and third notebooks (both carefully preserved at the Massachusetts Historical Society), retaining their spelling and punctuation, and James Savage's transcription of the middle notebook (accidentally destroyed in 1825).

Winthrop's narrative began as a journal and evolved into a history. As a dedicated Puritan convert, Winthrop decided to emigrate to America in 1630 with members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, who had chosen him as their governor. Just before sailing, he began a day-to-day account of his voyage. He continued his journal when he reached Massachusetts, at first making brief and irregular entries, followed by more frequent writing sessions and contemporaneous reporting, and finally, from 1643 onward, engaging in only irregular writing sessions and retrospective reporting. Naturally he found little good to say about such outright adversaries as Thomas Morton, Roger Williams, and Anne Hutchinson. Yet he was also adept at thrusting barbs at most of the other prominent players: John Endecott, Henry Vane, and Richard Saltonstall, among others.

Winthrop built lasting significance into the seemingly small-scale actions of a few thousand colonists in early New England, which is why his journal will remain an important historical source.

Praise

  • Until the Revolution with its stellar collection of 'Founding Fathers' [John] Winthrop was the only public figure who left his mark on the way his society developed in his own time and for long after. He preserved many letters and papers to document his achievement--he was not bashful about it--and the most important by far was his journal...The new edition [of the journal] will stand as a model of editorial scholarship...[and] is worth reading simply for the sense it conveys of what it took just to stay alive in seventeenth-century Massachusetts...[Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay colonists] carried out a revolution, rendered bloodless only be the three thousand miles of ocean that separated them from the government they would otherwise have had to overthrow in order to do what they did. In Massachusetts they created what amounted to a republic, substituting annually elected rulers for an hereditary monarchy and independent self-starting churches for the whole hierarchical structure of the Church of England...John Winthrop surely was the wisest, if not the best, public man in early Massachusetts. He guided a whole society in a truly revolutionary reform...With the exception of Jefferson, the men whom Americans recognize as great seam to have pursued and accomplished radical ends by conservative means. Winthrop was the first.

    —Edmund S. Morgan, New York Review of Books

Authors

  • James Savage, 1784–1873, prepared the 1825–1826 edition of John Winthrop’s journal.
  • Richard S. Dunn is Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor Emeritus of American History at the University of Pennsylvania. Among his publications are Sugar and Slaves in 1972; The Papers of William Penn, edited with Mary Maples Dunn, in four volumes published in 1981–1987; and The Journal of John Winthrop, edited with Laetitia Yeandle, published in 1996. He also designed the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and was its founding director.
  • Laetitia Yeandle is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Book Details

  • 374 pages
  • 7 x 9-5/8 inches
  • Belknap Press

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