Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in and around Boston believed they had been called to the New World to fulfill God’s Providence. They were part of the Protestant Reformation, which they considered the most significant period of history since Christ himself walked the earth and one that would hasten the millennium.
For some twenty-five years before the publication of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, there had been, according to Kenneth Silverman, calls for someone to document the history of the New England colony. Many felt that Mather’s father, Increase, was in the best position to write such a magisterial work. Thus, Cotton, being not only Increase’s son but also the grandson of two other essential contributors to the Puritan settlement of America—John Cotton and Richard Mather—felt it his familial duty to take responsibility for this monumental ecclesiastical history.
In the estimation of Silverman, the book was begun in 1693 and was compiled from diaries, Increase’s correspondence, and manuscript histories of New England by William Bradford and William Hubbard. Mather and his father also were acquainted with survivors of the first generation of settlers, or their families. Although Mather had interviewed many of them, he wanted even more information. In 1700, the manuscript of the book was sent to England for publication. After many delays and discouragements, Mather learned that it had been...
(The entire section is 1546 words.)
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