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New England Beginnings Guest Scholar Program

In an exciting new initiative over twenty experts on the cultures of early New England are participating in a program that will make their views on the subject available in an unprecedented form to high school students, college classes, and community groups.  The scholars are members of New England Beginnings, a partnership to plan efforts to commemorate the events and peoples that shaped the region from the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 through the expansion of New England through the seventeenth century.

The Guest Scholar Program

As part of our commitment to general education the partnership had created a Guest Scholar Program.  Scholars have agreed to make themselves available for a modest fee for talks and discussions via teleconferencing, Skype, Face Time or similar technologies.  High schools can use technology to bring an expert into their classroom to talk about aspects of Pilgrim and puritan New England, Native cultures of the region, or how early New England shaped modern America.  University courses can be enriched by the presence of scholars discussing their most recent works.  Churches can ask an expert questions about their religious heritage.  Civic groups can learn about how the latest scholarship sheds light on how the region developed in the seventeenth century and the role of various individuals in shaping those developments.

The speakers have agreed to waive their normal fees in lieu of a modest payment to New England Beginnings for the support of its expenses.  High Schools will be asked to pay $100; all other groups $200 for an “appearance” lasting up to one and a half hours (with questions and answer period).


Those wishing to engage one of the scholars should contact Francis J. Bremer, coordinator of New England Beginnings at using the “Contact” link on the web site, indicating the scholar to be invited and the approximate dates requested.  Your request will be forwarded to that scholar, who will respond directly and discuss details if he or she is able to accept.  If an agreement is reached the host will be informed of how to pay the stipend when the lecture has been given.

Note: This program is to bring scholars into classrooms and other venues using technology.  As always, scholars can be approached for in person appearances directly, with separate terms.

Below is a list of the participating scholars, their areas of expertise, and topics they would be willing to talk about and/or discuss.  Scheduling an appearance will be done with the individual scholar and is subject to their availability and their access to the necessary technology.  Some scholars will not be available at certain periods, and all retain the right to decline particular invitations.

Participating Scholars and Topics:

Kimberly Alexander, Massachusetts Historical Society Fellow

•    New England Material Culture

•    Fashioning the New England Family in the 17th Century

•    Colonial New England Clothing and Accessories

•    The 17th Century Embellished Gentleman

•    The Beginning of New England's Footwear Trade

•    The Enduring Value of Textiles: Probate Records and Theft

Robert Anderson, independent scholar 

•    The European Settlement of New England Between 1620 and 1640

•    English Background of the First Generation of Immigrants to New England

Emerson (Tad) Baker, Salem State University

•    Witchcraft and Magic in Early New England

•    Saints and Strangers: Non-Puritan Immigrants to Early New England

•    Daily Life in Seventeenth Century New England

Margaret Bendroth, Congregational Library & Archives 

•    “How We Remember New England’s Founders (and What That Says About Us)”

•    From the Pilgrims to the United Church of Christ: What Happened?

•    Digitizing and Preserving the Records of the Churches

Ashley Bissonnette, Eastern Connecticut State University and Mashantucket Pequot Museum

•    The Pequot War

•    King Philip’s War

•    Colonial Trauma in Early New England & Contemporary Consequences

•    Colonial and Native Medicine & Public Health in Early New England 

•    Disease and Injury in Early New England


Francis J. Bremer, Millersville University of Pennsylvania

•    Puritan Religion and the Shaping of Democracy

•    The Puritan Meaning of a City Upon a Hill

•    Exploring the Myths about the Puritans

•    William Brewster, Neglected Pilgrim

•    New England and England in the Seventeenth Century

•    America’s First Revolution


James F. Cooper, Congregational Library & Archives

•    New England church history

•    Church practice and the roots of democracy


Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, Independent Scholar

•    The Evolution of New England Diary Literature

•    Early New England Women's Personal Writings


Linford Fisher, Brown University

•    Early New England

•    Colonial-Native Interactions in Early New England

•    John Eliot and Native Evangelicalism

•    Slavery (Native and African) in Early New England

•    Warfare in Early New England

•    New England in the Wider Atlantic World

Scott Douglas Gerber, Northern Ohio University

  • Early New England Law

Katherine Grandjean, Wellesley College

•    Letter-writing and communication in early New England

•    Native-English communication and language exchange

•    The Pequot War

•    King Philip's War

•    Warfare in early New England and the northeast

Kathryn Gray, University of Plymouth (UK)

•    Puritan Missions in New England

•    Praying Indians of Massachusetts Bay

Polly Ha, University of East Anglia (UK)

•    Puritanism and Liberty

•    Moral reformation and Regulation

•    The Stigma of 'Separatism'

•    Anti-puritanism, and Independence.

David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School

•    Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England

•    Popular Religious Life  and Beliefs in New England

•    The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World

•    Witch hunting in New England


Timothy D. Hall, Samford University

•    Anne Hutchinson, Prophet and Exile

•    New England and the Contest for Atlantic Empire

•    New England and International Calvinism


David Lupher, Puget Sound University

•    "Greek-Roman culture in early New England" 


Ken Minkema, Yale University

•    Salem Witchcraft

•    William Bradford and Plymouth Colony

•    Cotton Mather

•    Jonathan Edwards. 


Paula Peters, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

•    pre and post colonial European and Native encounters and relations of the 17th century


Sarah Rivett, Princeton University 

•    Puritans -- theology, early modern religion and science

•    Native Americans -- missions in New France and New England

•    Indigenous Languages

•    Missionary Linguistics 

David Silverman, George Washington University

•    The first Thanksgiving

•    Early Indian-European contact

•    Christian missions and Indian Christianity

•    The Pequot War

•    King Philip's War

•    Native American intertribal relations

•    The New England fur trade and arms trade

•    The role of New Netherland in New England

Lori Stokes, Independent Scholar

•    Puritan women’s domestic and spiritual lives

•    The Pequot War and King Philip’s War

•    Relations between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the English government

•    Anne Hutchinson and the Free Grace Crisis

•    The ideal of the godly commonwealth

•    Process, goals, and responsibilities of church membership

•    How the church functioned internally and in relation to the town

•    Massachusetts Bay civil law.

Baird Tipson, Gettysburg College

•    "How 'Protestant' Were the Puritan Settlers of Early New England?"

•    "Were the Puritan Settlers of Early New England 'Evangelicals'?"


Abram Van Engen, Washington University of St. Louis

•    Myths and Realities about Puritan New England

•    The Appeal of Puritanism in the Seventeenth Century

•    Puritan Theology

•    The Collective Memory of the Puritans

Adrian C. Weimer, Providence College

•    Martyr-lore, Sanctity, and Sacrifice in Puritan Culture

•     Prophetic Women in Early America

•    Poetry and Spirituality in Early New England

•    Quakers and the Politics of Toleration

Michael Winship, University of Georgia

•    Puritanism

•    Anne Hutchinson

Exhibits and Programs

A New Way to See Puritan Boston

Anyone who has been to Boston in recent years will have found it hard to avoid the sight of the duck boats rolling through the streets with their sound systems blaring out the story of the Boston Massacre or the Boston Tea Party.  Costumed interpreters dressed like Crispus Attucks, James Otis, Mrs. Samuel Adams or any number of other men and women of the Revolutionary Era – the Freedom Trail Players they are called – lead visitors along the streets “regaling you,” their website says, “with stories of the brave men and women who risked everything to create the new nation.”  One can book a waistcoated Benjamin Franklin to talk to a school group or corporate retreat about his early years in Boston, his move to Philadelphia, and his role in the war for independence. 

It is hard to get away from the Revolution in Boston, whether you are visiting Faneuil Hall, the “cradle of liberty” or another stop on the Freedom Trail.  And yet the history of Boston doesn’t begin with John and Samuel Adams and their friends.  Boston was a hundred and forty-five years old when Paul Revere watched the steeple of the North Church to see the signal that would tell him if the British advance on Lexington would travel by land along the Boston neck or by sea across the river to Cambridge.  Indeed, Paul may have reflected that the North church congregation had been formed in 1649, and that one of the pastors of that church, Increase Mather, had lived on the site where Revere’s own home stood.

Visitors seeking to learn about the Boston of the Winthrops and the Mathers have been able to go on one of the tours organized by the Partnership of Historic Bostons if their timing was right, but that only touches on seventeenth century Boston’s “greatest hits.”  Of course, some tourists may have look up from the red line of the Freedom Trail and notice the odd plaque on the wall of a building that identifies the home of Robert Keayne or some other worthy.  But the challenges of touring the town’s “Puritan trail” have now been answered.  With a grant from Mass Humanities Council and financial assistance from Park Street Church, the Congregational Library & Archives has produced an application for smart phones and tablets that can guide those interested through the narrow streets of Boston to sites of puritan interest, or that can be used at home to learn more about the early history of the town.  Dr. Margaret Bendroth of the Congregational Library & Archives added her expertise to an assembled team of experts in putting the app together.  Dr. Emerson (Tad) Baker of Salem State and Dr. Francis J. Bremer are the historical consultants.  Dr. Lori Rogers Stokes was brought on as a public historian on the project and Larry Lindner as the writing consultant.  Project liaison Cary Hewitt, the Library’s Director of Development; and photo editor Jillian Jennett rounded out the team.  The design is by PVI Maine Software’s Ethan Whitaker.  The app has over seventy images, many from the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The title of the application is “Puritan Boston Tests Democracy.”  It opens on your device with a map and links to “Events,” a sequence of entries that relate the development of Boston and New England from English roots to the first Boston revolution (1689) and the legacy of puritanism in our history.  Entries in this sequence discuss aspects of everyday life, treatment of Native Americans and African Americans, the importance of literacy, and how the colonists dealt with dissent.  A tab along the bottom of the app lets you find information on “People” with separate entries that enable the user to learn about more than thirty men and women who shaped Boston history, including John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer, John Endecott, and the Mathers.  Most you will have heard of, but others are less familiar, such as Anne Pollard, a ten-year-old who in 1630 ran around the blueberry bushes that lined the marshland along what is now Charles Street and who lived till 1725.  Some of the entries link to pictures, and some also link to entries that relate the individual to important events and to places identified with their story.  A different tab opens to a list of entries on “Places” in an around Boston, with over thirty-five locations described and pinpointed on the app’s map. They include the homes of John Winthrop, John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson and Robert Keayne among others; the sites of the various meetinghouses; Deer Island, where Christian Indians were interned during King’s Philip’s War; and the actual site of the town gallows.  And yes, Benjamin Franklin’s Boston birthplace makes an appearance.  Numerous “Events” can be explored on the app, from the granting of the Massachusetts Bay Company charter to Boston’s first revolution against a British governor


While one can learn more about the people, places and events of puritan Boston on the app while sitting on your living room chair, the app can be used by a visitor to the city as a guide from place to place, either by following the directions on one of the “Tours” laid out, or by plotting a personal course with the use of the map.

 The app also offers a mini-course in the town’s puritan history.  Did the puritans celebrate Christmas?  What was their attitude towards sex and alcohol?  When was the first Thanksgiving? How did they interact with Natives and Blacks?  Were the Pilgrims puritans?  These and other topics are answered if you click on a tab asking “Did You Know?” that opens a set of entries exploding myths and exploring various unknown aspects of the culture of puritan Boston.  Want to know where to learn more about the puritans?  The app comes with a bibliography that reflects the most recent scholarship on the subject.

Colonial Society of Massachusetts Publications Online

In what is major news for scholars of early New England, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts has put its entire run of publications online, and in a searchable format.  These include proceedings of conferences and volumes of significant primary sources including the Pynchon Papers, the records of the First Church of Boston, court records, and records of Harvard College. 

New Records of the Plymouth Colony available

Those writing the history of the Plymouth colony will be pleased to note the availability  of a new, print-on-demand volume on The Town Records of Duxbury, Bridgewater, and Dartmouth during the Time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692. This follows similar publications for Marshfield (2015), Sandwich (2014), and Eastham (2012), as well as Scituate (three volumes, 1997, 1999, 2001). The recent books (2012-now) are available only as print-on-demand. A similarly published book is Plymouth Colony's Private Libraries (2016); and another is a continuation of the Plymouth Colony Records series that came out from 1855-1861, which is called Plymouth Colony Records, Deeds, &c., vol. II, 1651-1663 (2016).  Another volume in the PCR series will appear later this summer.  No one has done more than Jeremy to make the colony’s records available.  His Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners - Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (2009) is an important study of the colony’s background and is to be followed by a sequel volume that he hopes to be available in 2020.

New England's Hidden Histories: Colonial Church Records

Congregational church records offer a rich and remarkable view of life in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England. Well before the writing of the Constitution each member in the early Puritan churches had an equal vote, with the power to govern themselves and to choose their own ministers. The records of these congregations document births, deaths, and marriages, but also open a window onto the lives of ordinary people deliberating on matters both sacred and secular. For much of the colonial period, church business was town business, and so beyond the usual information on births, deaths, and marriages, church records show ordinary people making decisions about property, taxation, and their representation in the larger affairs of the Commonwealth.  Many of the documents in New England's Hidden Histories are being made available to the public for the first time. Since 2005 the Congregational Library, in partnership with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale and many local churches across New England, has been rescuing old records from church attics and basements, and making them widely accessible through preservation and digitization. Many of the documents also include transcriptions.

New England’s Hidden Histories (NEHH), of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston, locates, digitizes, and publishes rare seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscript church records online. We are pleased to announce that over 4,000 pages in our free archive have now been transcribed, making them readily accessible to all users. Among these materials are church records from Barnstable, Franklin, Georgetown, Marblehead, and Stoneham, Massachusetts, from Brunswick and Sanford, Maine, and from other colonial-era communities.

Also newly available at are over 1,100 transcribed pages of autobiographical and spiritual testimony from hundreds of members of the first church of Middleboro, Massachusetts. This collection of lay faith relations, the largest ever published, offers an unparalleled glimpse into the inner lives of ordinary people from a half century before the Revolution until the Civil War.

Additional transcriptions are forthcoming, including more church records, hundreds of additional lay relations of faith, the New World’s first systematic theological treatise (1656); an early draft of the Cambridge Platform and a response to lay objections about it (c. 1650), and portions of a deacon’s notebook (1638–46).  All of these materials are appearing in print for the first time. 

About New England’s Hidden Histories.—Our New England forbears enshrined the most intimate details of their lives and their communities in their manuscript church records. Therein can be found minutes of spirited church debates and disciplinary hearings, personal narratives, lay and clerical faith explorations, ministerial pronouncements, and a full complement of vital statistics (church membership lists, baptisms, marriages, and deaths), which together reveal the texture of early New England society. New England’s Hidden Histories has produced tens of thousands of digital images of these documents, and now myriad transcriptions, in its ongoing effort to freely share this incomparable historical resource with scholars, teachers, students, genealogists, church historians, and all interested members of the public. 

We welcome volunteers interested in assisting us with transcriptions.  Please send inquiries to Helen Gelinas, our Director of Transcription, at James Cooper, the Director of New England’s Hidden Histories, can be reached at

New England’s Hidden Histories is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources.

For more information check out Hidden Histories Digital Collections

The Winthrop Papers Online

A searchable and browsable online version of The Winthrop Papers, volumes 1-4, is now on the website of the Massachusetts Historical Society together with an index.  This Winthrop Papers Digital Edition comprises the digitized content of the previously published volumes from the Winthrop Papers documentary edition, a publication of the Massachusetts Historical Society that dates from the 1920s. Since documentary editing standards changed over the 20th century, readers will notice some variation in editorial and annotation style from the earlier volume to the latest one posted.  

Colonial North American History Project at Harvard University

This website provides access to some of the remarkable materials digitized as part of the ongoing, multi-year Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.  When complete, the project will make available to the world digitized images of all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America. Scattered through twelve repositories, these documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion. In addition to reflecting the origins of the United States, the digitized materials also document aspects of life and work in Great Britain, France, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The ‘Essays’ on this website are the work of a Summer 2015 Arcadia Fellow, Alicia DeMaio, who was one of the first researchers to connect thematically related material from among the images digitized to date.

The Trail of the Pilgrims

Dr. Jeremy Bangs of Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, assisted by Sue Allan, the official historian of Scrooby Manor, has uploaded a tour of Pilgrim sites in England. The tour is in two parts,

the link to the second of which is found at the top of the page (Mayflower Trail Tour).  Dr. Bangs has also uploaded pictures illustrating the Pilgrim stay in Leiden.

Tomaquag Museum

This museum of has a unique collection of over 20,000 cultural objects along with hundreds of thousands of pieces of archival materials focusing on the Native peoples of New England and Rhode Island.  Special programs share Native perspectives on traditional health and well-being, education, history, culture and the Indigenous arts. Workshops on beadwork, pottery, herbal holistic healing, and painting are held regularly. Presentations for the public through our offsite programs, lectures, and cultural presentations bring our culture, traditional arts, and history to the public at large. Tomaquag’s other educational programs include specialized tours, Native games, Indigenous foods, Ecology of Mother Earth and Eastern Woodland Slide Presentations, Educator's Workshops, conferences, and contemporary issues and events.

Four Hundred Years of Wampanoag History

"Our Story" is an exhibit of Wampanoag History sponsored by Plymouth 400 Inc. as part of their commemoration of Plymouth's upcoming 400th anniversary.  It is an interactive exhibit that will be regularly expanded over the coming years.

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