Beacon Street Diary blog

New books

We have some new additions to our circulating collection. They are available for borrowing by our members.

A City That Hath Foundations : Congregationalism in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1635-2014 by Eric Wilbra Bascom

Initially, Springfield was not "city set on a hill", but sat cheek-by-jowl beside "the Grayte River in the West," more a village laid out in a swamp. William Pynchon bought it fair and square from the local Nipmucs -- and did much to ease their distresses. Its meetinghouse stored corn and was both church and town hall, but it rang with the convictions that would give all America its work ethic and moral backbone.

Locally written histories talk a lot about buildings; this is a book about ideas. When these people went to church, what did they hear? What were their hopes; what woke them in the night; what did they pray for? What can our cities do to build, and build again, upon secure foundations?

Eric Bascom writes, preaches, teaches, and tells stories, and lives in Springfield. The author of Up Where the House Burned Down and A Funny Thing Happened o the Way to the Pulpit has drawn on his fifty years ministry in this Pioneer Valley town to look at the roots of a major phenomenon.


Women, Dissent and Anti-slavery in Britain and America, 1790-1865 by Elizabeth J. Clapp and Julie Roy Jeffrey

As historians have gradually come to recognize, the involvement of women was central to the anti-slavery cause in both Britain and the United States. Like their male counterparts, women abolitionists did not all speak with one voice. Among the major differences between women were their religious affiliations, an aspect of their commitment that has not been studied in detail. Yet it is clear that the desire to live out and practice their religious beliefs inspired many of the women who participated in anti-slavery activities in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

This book examines the part that the traditions, practices, and beliefs of English Protestant dissent and the American Puritan and evangelical traditions played in women's anti-slavery activism. Focusing particularly on Baptist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Unitarian women, the essays in this volume move from accounts of individual women's participation in the movement as printers and writers, to assessments of the negotiations and the occasional conflicts between different denominational groups and their anti-slavery impulses. Together the essays in this volume explore how the tradition of English Protestant Dissent shaped the American abolitionist movement, and the various ways in which women belonging to the different denominations on both sides of the Atlantic drew on their religious beliefs to influence the direction of their anti-slavery movements. The collection provides a nuanced understanding of why these women felt compelled to fight for the end of slavery in their respective countries.


Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism : College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America by J. Brent Morris

By exploring the role of Oberlin — the college and the community — in fighting against slavery and for social equality, J. Brent Morris establishes this "hotbed of abolitionism" as the core of the antislavery movement in the West and as one of the most influential reform groups in antebellum America. As the first college to admit men and women of all races, and with a faculty and community comprised of outspoken abolitionists, Oberlin supported a cadre of activist missionaries devoted to emancipation, even if that was through unconventional methods or via an abandonment of strict ideological consistency. Their philosophy was a color-blind composite of various schools of antislavery thought aimed at supporting the best hope of success. Though historians have embraced Oberlin as a potent symbol of egalitarianism, radicalism, and religious zeal, Morris is the first to portray the complete history behind this iconic antislavery symbol.

In this book, Morris shifts the focus of generations of antislavery scholarship from the East and demonstrates that the West's influence was largely responsible for a continuous infusion of radicalism that helped the movement stay true to its most progressive principles.


Damnable Heresy : William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned (and Burned) in Boston by David Powers

Misunderstandings between races, hostilities between cultures. Anxiety from living in a time of war in one's own land. Being accused of profiteering when food was scarce. Unruly residents in a remote frontier community. Charged with speaking the unspeakable and publishing the unprintable. All of this can be found in the life of one man — William Pynchon, the Puritan entrepreneur and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1636.

Two things in particular stand out in Pynchon's pioneering life: he enjoyed extraordinary and uniquely positive relationships with Native peoples, and he wrote the first book banned — and burned — in Boston.

Now for the first time, this book provides a comprehensive account of Pynchon's story, beginning in England, through his New England adventures, to his return home. Discover the fabric of his times and the roles Pynchon played in the Puritan venture in Old England and New England.