“Bremer] takes a biographical approach to detail how Puritans’ ideas and values ultimately contributed to the forming of our American government and institutions. . . .He effectively... [continued in Reviews below]”—Library Journal
An introduction to the diverse lives of the Puritan founders by a leading expert
Francis J. Bremer has spent his entire career broadening our understanding of America’s colonial founders. Now, in this eminently readable collection of biographies, Bremer brings us a surprisingly varied and dynamic group of characters who continue to guide and influence America today. With its cast of magistrates, women, clergy, merchants, and Native Americans, First Founders underscores the breadth of early American experience and the profound transatlantic roots of our country’s forebears. Bremer succeeds in bringing little-known figures out of the shadows, while allowing us to appreciate better known figures in an entirely new light.
This is a truly fascinating look at the Puritans with keenly drawn portraits and the insight that only a lifetime of scholarship can achieve. It should become the standard introduction to the field. Written in the mold of Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers and Gordon Wood’s Revolutionary Characters, the book will appeal to general readers, students, and scholars alike.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“[Bremer] takes a biographical approach to detail how Puritans’ ideas and values ultimately contributed to the forming of our American government and institutions. . . .He effectively presents the distinct and evolving Puritan views and elaborates on how they influenced American life. . . . Bremer’s work will appeal to the thoughtful reader with an interest in exploring the roots of our country’s founding credos through these accessible biographies.”—Library Journal
“The work offers an important contribution in acquainting readers unfamiliar with the 17th-century Atlantic world with Puritanism and its history in North America. . . .Recommended.”—Choice
“A Puritan authority goes behind the dour faces and stiff collars to find that 17th-century New England was a surprisingly varied and dynamic place.”—American History Magazine
“Reading this book makes it clear that the Puritan roots of America in New England are still influencing our culture today. This legacy, Bremer claims, ‘remains the reason to get beyond stereotypes and understand the reason to get beyond stereotypes and understand these men and women as they truly were.’”—Maine Antique Digest
“Exploring the interconnected lives of some of North America’s genuine first English founders, Bremer convincingly argues that Puritanism, which was experienced in more varied ways that scholars have normally recognized, shaped the founding of New England and America in dynamic and lasting ways.”—The Historian
“Francis Bremer’s First Founders serves as a trenchant reminder of the religious and political diversity of New England Puritans. Bremer traces the lives of many prominent Puritans in early Massachusetts. In its totality, his collection of biographical sketches offers students and the public a themed portrait of Puritanism that confronts and complicates themes in Massachusetts historiography. Bremer’s book is not intended for scholars of early America, but is a comprehensive study of Puritanism in seventeenth-century Massachusetts.”—Historical Journal of Massachusetts
"Building on his career-long commitment to making American Puritans and Puritanism understood, Francis Bremer offers a portrait study of several important men and women who lived in seventeenth-century New England... Lay readers will enjoy a fluid narrative devoid of technical citations and academic readers will find comfort in detailed explorations of Puritan players and their contributions to shaping the past. Bremer finds a balance between both readerships, dispelling the common myths of the Puritans' supposedly prudish morality, while deftly laying out the philosophical, political, economic, and social foundations of Puritan experiments in the Atlantic world."—Connecticut History
“What makes Bremer’s history valuable is that he gives us the details of the lives of these women and men, who were, of course, complex creatures but also beset by war, disease and high mortality rates in ways most Americans simply don’t understand now. Perhaps because their physical lives were so vulnerable, it was even more essential that they labor toward spiritual perfection.”—Valley News
“First Founders brings the colonial Puritan world alive in all its complexity through these sensitive and insightful biographies of those who hoped to create a godly society in a new world. Bremer’s mastery of the subject shines through in his new interpretations of familiar figures like John Winthrop and Anne Bradstreet, but readers will also be fascinated by the lives and passions of the ordinary men and women he introduces. This is history at its best.”—Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY
“This book is the kind of accomplishment it takes a career to be able to achieve. While First Founders is at once an eminently readable study of people whose lives demonstrate the richness and diversity of Puritan thought, it is much more. Bremer unpacks complex theology and intricate historical situations through stories that are so interesting, the depth of knowledge he conveys seems effortless. Only a master of the field and of his craft could tell such stories so well.”—Walter Woodward, Connecticut State Historian
FRANCIS J. BREMER is emeritus professor of history at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. A leading authority on Puritanism, he is the author of numerous books, including The Puritan Experiment and the award-winning biography John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father.