Friday, January 22, 2016

What I Read in March 2015 Part VII

What I Read in March 2015 Part VII ...

The Devil Made Me Do It!: Crime and Punishment in Early New EnglandThe Devil Made Me Do It!: Crime and Punishment in Early New England by Juliet Haines Mofford --Non-fiction, New England History

This book is geared towards the academic community but can be enjoyed by history enthusiasts as well. It's a gruesome look at crime and punishment in early colonial New England. The chapters include: The Puritan Way, Governing the Family, Governing the Community, The First Crime Wave: Crimes Against Religion, Sexual Deviants and Female Felons, The Second Colonial Crime Wave: Witches, Crimes Against Property, The Third Colonial Crime Wave: Pirates, Early Prisons and a case study on Patience Samson Boston, The Penitent Prisoner.

The author relies on published court records to sketch a picture of Puritan society and how the Puritan leaders tried to control human nature. It was impossible to do so of course, but they tried. Especially interesting was the chapter on women. I don't think most of us would have survived at that time, yet in some ways women had more freedom than they would have a few centuries later. The chapters are accompanied by woodcuts, paintings and illustrations. My biggest complaint with the book is just when it got really interesting and I wanted to know more, the author just stopped the story. I also disliked the inclusion of Rhode Island lumped in with the Puritan colonies. We were not a Puritan colony and had separation of church and state. Also, Rhode Island was one colony and there were other colonies that now make up the state of Rhode Island. We were quite progressive for the time and did not have any known cases of witchcraft.

This is a brief look at the laws and criminal cases of early New England. It's really a fascinating subject that deserves a longer book.

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