Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Matthew Bahar

Committee Member(s)

Renee Romano, Chair
Carol Lasser
Emer O'Dwyer


Puritan family, Puritan children, Puritan childhood, Seventeenth-century New England, Salem Witchcraft Trials, Historical child, Colonial childhood, Colonial children


The changes in the understanding of childhood and children in colonial New England marked a swift and profound departure from English family norms prior to 1630. Casting off the intellectual baggage of childhood and the family mores that had accompanied the Puritans across the Atlantic, New Englanders reconceptualized children as central to the mission in the wilderness. In this thesis, I argue that New Englanders connected, both implicitly and explicitly, the well being of the colony's children directly with the future health of New England and sought to capitalize on this connection in unique, at times self-serving, ways. To best serve their own visions of the future New England commonwealth, religious authorities, secular authorities, and parents and the 'common folk' throughout Massachusetts constructed contested meanings and goals that each group attached to and associated variously with children. Though each group agreed on a new understanding of childhood, their differing interpretations and goals, and the contested ground on which these groups interacted, introduced into New England society intense and ultimately irreconcilable tensions between the community and the family. The interactions between religious authorities, secular authorities, and the 'common folk' introduced fundamental inconsistencies, incompatibilities, and irreconcilable tensions into New England society from an early period.

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