Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The Puritans famously emigrated to New England in part so that they could raise their families according to their social and religious ideals without persecution or temptation. Since Edmund S. Morgan’s The Puritan Family (1944), historians, demographers, and sociologists have plumbed New England Puritan histories, establishing the centrality of the family to the Puritan New England experiment and revealing its pervading, stabilizing function. But just as the familial paradigm was central to the Puritan social structure, so too did it significantly inform the historians’ representations of that structure. Lines of Descent thus examines the colonial histories of William Bradford, John Winthrop, and Edward Johnson, as well as the histories of King Philip’s War by Increase Mather and William Hubbard, not as historical sources but rather as literary artifacts. Considering Hayden White’s insistence that if “there is no contest, there is no story to tell,” it particularly explores representations of families and children in response to specific historical exigencies. I argue that whether the crisis involved a faltering colony, the Antinomian controversy, a feared obsolescence, or the uprising of Native peoples, these authors employed the family in order to lend its pervasive stability to the destabilized colonial moment. Through these depictions, historiographic representation could counteract historical reality.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

WayneD Fields

Committee Members

Peter Kastor, Joseph Loewenstein, Daniel Shea, Abram Van Engen


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