Agnès DelahayeNov 4, 2020
Settling the Good Land
Governance and Promotion in John Winthrop’s New England
Agnès Delahaye’s new book, Settling the Good Land: Governance and Promotion in John Winthrop’s New England (Brill, 2020), is the story of John Winthrop’s tenure as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630’s. In a correction to the prevailing narrative of Puritans alone in the New England wilderness, Professor Delahaye shows the colonists’ commercial connections to the Old England and the Atlantic World and how earnestly the magistrates of the Massachusetts Bay Company maintained these through promotional writing, where their particular, innovative project of permanent settlement can be traced and contextualized.
John Winthrop’s Journal reveals a deep desire for economic independence, or “competency,” born of his frustrations with his limited options in a cramped England, which he played out in a New World—a Promised Land—that he considered to be boundlessly fertile with possibility. Always expanding, Winthrop competed ruthlessly with the indigenous Americans in a “continuous process of rumors, intimidation, conflicts and negotiations, which Winthrop navigated with unwavering confidence in his own racial superiority” (p. 261). Settling the Good Land is a remarkable and magisterial study of a man who simultaneously held (and realized) these ambitions with one hand and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the other. Yet, he saw no conflict in them but rather the “fulfillment of his religious and personal calling” (p. 121).
Professor Delahaye teaches in Lyon at Université Lumière Lyon II and is a member of the interdisciplinary Triangle Research Group which combines “action, discourses, economic and political thought” to better understand the meeting of political ideas and consequences. Last year she received the rank of habilitation to direct doctoral theses, the highest rank in the French academic system.
Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Europe and the Atlantic World, specializing in sixteenth-century diplomacy and travel.