The Trials of Thomas Morton


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

An Anglican Lawyer, His Puritan Foes, and the Battle for a New England

Peter C. Mancall

View Inside Format: Hardcover
Price: $30.00
YUPOut of Stock
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

A new look at Thomas Morton, his controversial colonial philosophy, and his lengthy feud with the Puritans
“[This] brilliant riposte to scholarly conventions . . . reconstructs an early colonial experience that is troubled and contested, one that provides a powerful counter-narrative to the traditional accounts that have been institutionalized as clichés in the Thanksgiving tradition.”—Crawford Gribben, Wall Street Journal

Adding new depth to our understanding of early New England society, this riveting account of Thomas Morton explores the tensions that arose from competing colonial visions. A lawyer and fur trader, Thomas Morton dreamed of a society where Algonquian peoples and English colonists could coexist. Infamous for dancing around a maypole in defiance of his Pilgrim neighbors, Morton was reviled by the Puritans for selling guns to the Natives. Colonial authorities exiled him three separate times from New England, but Morton kept returning to fight for his beliefs.
This compelling counter-narrative to the familiar story of the Puritans combines a rich understanding of the period with a close reading of early texts to bring the contentious Morton to life. This volume sheds new light on the tumultuous formative decades of the American experience.

Peter C. Mancall, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities and professor of history and anthropology at the University of Southern California, is the author of six books about early America.

“Thomas Morton is one of the great anti-heroes in American history. Attorney, trader, Puritan critic, Native American admirer, Morton at last has the biography his picaresque life deserves. Peter Mancall’s deeply researched and beautifully written book brings Morton to life and promises to change the way we think about early America.”—Louis P. Masur, Rutgers University

“In this absorbing work, Peter C. Mancall rescues Thomas Morton from the realms of fiction and wishful thinking he has long inhabited. By exploring Morton's alternative vision for English colonization, Mancall poignantly reminds us of roads not taken.”—Alison Games, author of The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660

“By focusing his narrative on Morton Mancall introduces  contingency into early New England history, showing that alternatives were possible—if only they had been pursued.”—Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

The Trials of Thomas Morton uses the life of the “Lord of Misrule,” who enraged Puritans by dancing with Indians around a Maypole, and a study of Morton’s strange New English Canaan (1637), to offer a startling counter-narrative of early New England history.”—Christopher Grasso, author of Skepticism and American Faith: From the Revolution to the Civil War

“In a brilliant riposte to scholarly conventions, and one that many scholars might want to qualify, Mr. Mancall . . . reconstructs an early colonial experience that is troubled and contested, one that provides a powerful counter-narrative to the traditional accounts that have been institutionalized as clichés in the Thanksgiving tradition.”—Crawford Gribben, Wall Street Journal

“Mancall’s book is lively, fascinating, and highly readable. . . . Mancall has meticulously reconstructed a neglected episode in colonial history and the twists and turns of the publishing, reception, and subsequent use of a mischievous book.”—Richard M. Gamble, The Orthodox Presbyterian Church

"Mancall’s book is lively, fascinating, and highly readable.”—Richard M. Gamble, Ordained Servant

”Mancall . . . offer[s] rich historical and historiographical detail and considerable food for thought. . . . Morton was clearly having a great deal of fun, but Mancall reminds us that he was also engaged in deadly serious political theater aimed at undermining the legal standing of the Puritan settlements.”—Reviews in American History

“Historian Peter Mancall deconstructs the traditional narrative that traces the origins of the American nation to Puritan colonization . . . This books offers a nuanced contribution to historiographical as well as public debates.”—La Vie des Idées

“[A] telling alternative to the familiar story of New England, a corrective to a history that became so dominant as to eclipse other real possibilities for settlement.”—Kathleen Donegan, William and Mary Quarterly

"With verve, tact, and insight, Mancall has teased out those strands of Morton’s career that suggest an attractive alternative to some of the grim realities of early American history. As the most recent witness in Morton’s ongoing 'trial,' he has launched a vigorous, though not impartial, defense of a complicated man."—Christopher Benfey, New York Review of Books

“Engagingly written, insightfully argued, and offer(s) fascinating, sometimes rollicking, tours through the ways Puritans have been characterized—and caricatured—over time.”—Jenny Hale Pulsipher, Reviews in American History

“Mancall’s lovely little book may . . . open Morton’s world and ideas to a new generation of Americans.”—Daniel Mandell, Journal of American History

“From start to finish, The Trials of Thomas Morton offers fresh approaches to reframing the well-told tale of life in seventeenth-century New England. . . . Mancall’s comprehensive book-length study is long overdue.”—Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, The New England Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300230109
Publication Date: November 26, 2019
288 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
19 b/w illus.
Hakluyt’s Promise

An Elizabethan's Obsession for an English America

Peter C. Mancall

View details