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John Winthrop

America's Forgotten Founding Father

Francis J. Bremer

Publication Date - March 2005

ISBN: 9780195179811

512 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Francis J. Bremer draws on over a decade of research to offer a superb biography of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who, more than anyone else, shaped the culture of early New England.


John Winthrop's effort to create a Puritan "City on a Hill" has had a lasting effect on American values, and many remember this phrase famously quoted by the late Ronald Reagan. However, most know very little about the first American to speak these words. In John Winthrop, Francis J. Bremer draws on over a decade of research in England, Ireland, and the United States to offer a superb biography of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, one rooted in a detailed understanding of his first forty years in England. Indeed, Bremer provides an extensive, path-breaking treatment of Winthrop's family background, youthful development, and English career. His dissatisfaction with the decline of the "godly kingdom of the Stour Valley" in which he had been raised led him on his errand to rebuild such a society in a New England. In America, Winthrop would use the skills he had developed in England as he struggled with challenges from Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, among others, and defended the colony from English interference. We also see the personal side of Winthrop--the doubts and concerns of the spiritual pilgrim, his everyday labors and pleasures, his feelings for family and friends. And Bremer also sheds much light on important historical moments in England and America, such as the Reformation and the rise of Puritanism, the rise of the middling class, the colonization movement, and colonial relations with Native Americans.
Incorporating previously unexplored archival materials from both sides of the Atlantic, here is the definitive portrait of one of the giants of our history.

John Winthrop recevied an honorable Mention, The Colonial Dames of America Book Award.

About the Author(s)

Francis J. Bremer is Professor of History at Millersville University and Editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society. He lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


"Thoroughly researched...and authoritative."--Caleb Crain, The New York Times Book Review

"A fine, richly textured biography."--Boston Globe

"[Bremer] has marshaled his deep knowledge of the 17th century to give us a new, passionate, moderate and community-centered Winthrop."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Add[s] tremendously to our understanding of this pivotal figure....A rich, magisterial biography."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Bremer's diligently researched work is the definitive landmark study of its subject."--Booklist

"An impressive, scholarly analysis of the life of John Winthrop."--Library Journal

"A richly researched life of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor, arguing that the Puritan leader was more moderate than history has conveyed."--Kirkus Reviews

"Rich in insights and detail....A memorable account of a good man."--Washington Times

"In his 1630 sermon 'A New Model of Christian Charity,' John Winthrop provided the defining and enduring metaphor of America as the 'City Set on A Hill.' Too long has the person behind the vision been lost to the obscurities of 17th century Puritanism. Frank Bremer has now restored him to his rightful place as the first founding father in the American pantheon."--Peter J. Gomes, Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church, Harvard University

"A brilliantly-researched example of what is now often termed the 'new' Atlantic History. Drawing upon archives in England and Massachusetts, he reconstructs the career of Governor John Winthrop, showing from a fresh and original perspective what it meant to be a Puritan."--T.H. Breen, Northwestern University

"A wonderful achievement. The story of Winthrop's pilgrimage from unendurable stress in the Old World to endurable stress in the New World is captured with a freshness and vividness that kept me enthralled. The result is a convincing recreation of Winthrop's mental and physical worlds. This is one of the great early modern biographies."--John Morrill, University of Cambridge

"In this remarkable biography of John Winthrop, Bremer brings to life the English society that shaped John Winthrop's character and purpose and the colonial society that was in turn shaped by him. A major contribution to the field of puritan studies."--Carol Berkin, Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

"This is a splendid work, not afraid to take sides with its subject, but always judicious and sensitive to the context of a life spent in two continents. Bremer's study has wider implications than one man's career; he has thrown a flood of light on the beginnings of the Anglo-American world."--Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University

"His deeply learned book is so rich in physical description and offers so many subtle and surprising intellectual insights that it should appeal even to readers whose eyes otherwise glaze over reading about 17th-century theology. You might say that the times are so well described that we are carried through the life....He has marshaled his deep knowledge of the 17th century to give us a new, passionate, moderate and community-centered Winthrop."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Nicely presented--with a number of maps and black and white plates and a Winthrop family tree--and exceedingly well-researched."--The New York Sun

"Bremer's excellent and comprehensive biography restores Winthrop to his rightful place in American memory."--Weekly Standard

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