Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Heavenly Correspondence: Benjamin Colman's Epistolary World and the Dissenting Interest
by Smith, William R., Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 2017, 362; 13836372
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation uses the correspondence of Boston’s most prolific letter-writer, the Congregationalist minister Benjamin Colman (1673-1747), in order to understand the creation, extension, and fracturing of the Dissenting Interest in the British North Atlantic. With his epistolarium as the primary lens for viewing this transatlantic world, “A Heavenly Correspondence” explores the making and unmaking of a Dissenting Atlantic over the first half of the eighteenth century. The dissertation shows that the history of British Protestant Dissent is fundamentally an Atlantic story, one shaped as much by the provincial edges of empire as by the center. As such, it expands the geographical boundaries of current scholarship to view New England and Scotland as integral to the history of Protestant Dissent, and to show Dissent’s investment in a diffuse British imperial culture. Colman’s world testifies to both the reshaping of transatlantic letter networks in this period and the crucial role of those networks that connected Dissenting communities across space and time. As Dissenters adjusted to a growing empire, letters became lifelines and indispensable social threads that knit them together despite their geographic distance and ecclesiastical diversity. Through intertwining webs of communication, Dissenting Congregationalists and Presbyterians in England and New England, as well as Presbyterians in Scotland, saw themselves as united in a shared past, present, and future.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Noll, Mark A.
Commitee: Cangary, Catherine, Griffin, Patrick, Nell, Mark A., Winterer, Caroline
School: University of Notre Dame
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 80/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, American history
Keywords: Atlantic studies, British Empire, Colonial America, Letter writing, Networks, Religion
Publication Number: 13836372
ISBN: 978-0-438-83558-0
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