The Puritan Ideology of Mobility

The Puritan Ideology of Mobility

Corporatism, the Politics of Place and the Founding of New England Towns before 1650

By Scott McDermott

Anthem Intercultural Transfer Studies

The Puritan Ideology of Mobility: Corporatism, the Politics of Place, and the Founding of New England Towns before 1650 presents the ideology of mobility which Puritan leaders developed to justify migration and town founding. New England towns were born as living “bodies politic” with a metaphysical basis in keeping with Christian corporatist theory.

Hardback, 204 Pages


February 2022

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

The Puritan Ideology of Mobility: Corporatism, the Politics of Place, and the Founding of New England Towns before 1650 examines the ideology that English Puritans developed to justify migration: their migration from England to New England, migrations from one town to another within New England, and, often, their repatriation to the mother country. Guided by the Protestant scholasticism of Cambridge University, Puritan leaders accepted the ancient corporatist image of society as a living, organic body politic, a model which they applied to nations, colonies, business corporations like the Massachusetts Bay Company, and towns.

But if a town, a colony, or a nation were a living body, how could Puritans justify withdrawing from one body to form a new social body, as they so often did? Drawing on the prevailing humoral theory of health, Puritans leaders believed that if a social body became “distempered” because of insufficient resources or political or religious disagreements, it might become necessary to bring about a new body politic in order to restore balance and harmony to the existing one. This theory gave rise to a robust “politics of place” in colonial New England, where one’s choice of residence could make a strong political statement.

In order to facilitate the founding of new town bodies, colonial elites were endowed with unique privileges of mobility. But these entrepreneurs also needed ordinary inhabitants to make a successful migration, so that the various “members” of the new social body all benefited from the opportunities conferred through the privilege of migration. The body of a new town was articulated through the social ritual of land distribution, carried out in proportion to rank according to Aristotelian “distributive justice.” The book will trace this process at work in the founding of Ipswich and its satellite towns in Massachusetts.


“Using a mountain of sources, McDermott demonstrates vividly that Catholic and Aristotelean ideas informed and shaped the lives of 17th century New England farmers along the Merrimack River. Scholars that caricature New England will be disturbed: those wishing to humanize and understand historical New England will be informed and delighted.” — Barry Levy, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst, US.

Author Information

Scott McDermott received his Ph.D. in 2014 from Saint Louis University. He is Assistant Professor of History at Albany State University in Georgia.


Anthem Intercultural Transfer Studies

Table of Contents

List of Figures; Preface: Protestant Scholasticism and Puritan Ideology; Acknowledgments; A Note on Dates; Chapter One Puritans and Society in the Stour Valley; Chapter Two The Puritan Ideology of Mobility; Chapter Three Land Distribution in Colonial Ipswich; Chapter Four Town-Founding in Essex County: The Communities around Ipswich; Epilogue: The Future of Corporatism and the Ideology of Mobility in America; Notes; Works Cited; Index.


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