The city upon the hill that Winthrop sought to create in New England is a different world from that of his alleged ideological heirs. For Winthrop, the stakes of getting the city right were high (and they continue to be). To build a lasting “city upon the hill” the Puritans needed to create a society held together by charity, mercy, and love.
Today, people who live in democratic societies take religious freedom for granted. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most Europeans found the idea of “freedom of conscience” deeply threatening. How could the fabric of society withstand competing religious ideas? What would convince people to live moral lives in the absence of a single, state-supported church?
“WWJD?” A student of mine told me in the early 1990’s that in her school the interrogating initials meant “Who Wants Jack Daniels?” Of course, most Americans today know that they mean “What Would Jesus Do?” The question has been ubiquitous in American popular culture for three decades. But few know that it was first asked in a novel. And even fewer know that the author’s working drafts of that novel can be seen today in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Private family photographs document events, such as births, marriages, and reunions, that are important in the history of individual families, but they can also teach us about the events we think of as real history.
My own family hails from Aligarh, a city about 90 miles southeast of New Delhi and, as Muslims, opted to move to Pakistan. I was aware of this as a child, but because I grew up outside Pakistan, it was not until I began my research and had enough comfort speaking Urdu that I persuaded some of my elderly relatives to tell me their stories of the time of independence and partition.
In the last years of the twelfth-century, a monk named Engelhard, from the German monastery of Langheim, composed stories about miraculous events and visions he believed his fellow monks had experienced. This was not a decision made lightly: parchment was expensive, the process of writing laborious, and monastic authors needed permission from their superiors to write at all. But Engelhard (and his abbot) considered this project worthwhile.