Magnalia Christi Americana

by Cotton Mather

Start Free Trial

How does Cotton Mather's depiction of John Winthrop in Magnalia Christi Americana compare to Winthrop's self-portrayal?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mather's text and Winthrop's journal represent very different approaches to writing history. Mather, as a clergyman, was writing a kind of "spiritual" history of the church in Massachusetts. As such, he was less concerned with the actual events that occurred than in spiritual qualities of the main figures in the Puritan movement, including Winthrop. These men Mather saw as "types," or present-day manifestations, of Biblical figures. Winthrop, the first governor of the colony, figures in Mather's history as a "type" of Moses.

Winthrop, on the other hand, as a layman, was more interested recording actual events. His journal is a very different document than Mather's; Winthrop's account of getting the patent from Parliament that permitted free trade is a matter-of-fact record that September 2, 1641 was "a day of thanksgiving," while Mather sees Winthrop's success as a leader as an indication of both his good character and his being singled out by God as their leader.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial