In the Beginning … with Adrian Weimer

Our next post in thinking about teaching the early colonial period comes from Adrian Chastain Weimer, another favorite scholar of this blog. Professor at Providence College, she is the author of the tremendous book Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England. She, too, answers these questions: If you had to recommend one primary document (text, image, … anything at all) from your field that exemplified some of the problems your book addresses AND speaks to main themes in American history at the time, what would it be? How would you guide discussion? What questions would you ask for an essay or exam that would incorporate it?” 

Dr. Adrian Chastain Weimer

The section about the martyr John Rogers in the New England Primer is preceded by an alphabet, proverbial sayings, creed, and numbers and is followed by short prayers. The Primer is a school book for children (and their parents). Why, then does it include an image of a martyr? English Protestant identity in the seventeenth century was steeped in the stories  of John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, more commonly known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (from which this section in the Primer is excerpted). The Book of Martyrs was read alongside the Bible for models of holiness and resistance to religious and political corruption. In early New England, school children would have known that under the Catholic Queen Mary in the 1550s, hundreds of men and women burned at the stake rather than recant their Protestant beliefs. To be an English Protestant meant to resist Catholic tyranny, often associated with the rival empire of Spain (Queen Mary’s husband was a Catholic Spanish King). John Rogers represented these English Protestant martyrs who “with wonderful Patience died couragiously for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” As you read John Roger’s poem to his children, how does the experience of martyrdom translate into an ethic for everyday life? If the “Whore of Rome” is the Catholic church, how does this document speak to larger issues of the perceived danger of religious toleration?  How do you think the poem and image might have influenced the children encountering them?  
Essay topic: What are some of the sources of English Protestant identity in the seventeenth century? In what ways were religious and political identity closely intertwined? 

2 thoughts on “In the Beginning … with Adrian Weimer

  1. Professor,
    While I am not totally relating to your post, I recently read a Michael Lind article in, Feb. 5th titled “The white South’s last defeat” that I found interesting and perhaps a dumbed down synopsis of your previous book. Hope all is going well for you, and give comedians a break – they need to make a buck too.
    Charles Mazur

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