You may know the stereotype of the “busybody New Englander,” the person who knows all about their neighbors’ private affairs.
This stereotype comes from the New England town-church ideal: The idea that ministers and congregants of the town church had a responsibility to maintain civic and moral order in their town.
Shelby M. Balik, Assistant Professor of History at Metropolitan State University of Denver and author of Rally the Scattered Believers: Northern New England's Religious Geography, joins us to explore the New England town-church ideal, how it helped New Englanders organize their towns, and why the post-Revolution migration into northern New England forced New Englanders to change and adapt how they maintained civic and moral order within their communities.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In this episode, Shelby M. Balik, Assistant Professor of History at Metropolitan State University of Denver and author of Rally the Scattered Believers: Northern New England's Religious Geography, joins us to explore the post-Revolution migration into Northern New England and the migrants’ attempts to establish churches and moral order in their communities.
During our exploration, Shelby reveals what the religious landscape of northern New England looked like after the American Revolution; What the New England “town-church ideal” was and why it proved ill-suited to the geography of northern New England; And, information about the Second Great Awakening and what caused this period of religious revivalism during the early 19th century.
What You’ll Discover
- How Shelby became interested in early American religious history
- What led Shelby to pursue her interest in early American religious history in northern New England
- The geographic definition of northern New England
- Overview of the religious landscape of northern New England after the War for Independence
- The definition of “religious geography”
- The physical challenges northern New England posed to settlement and the spread of religion
- Why thousands of New Englanders migrated to northern New England after the War for Independence
- The tradition of the New England “town-church ideal”
- Why the “New England Way” or “town-church ideal” proved ill-suited to the geography of northern New England
- How Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Free Will Baptists, and Universalists competed for the settlers’ attention, favor, and souls
- Why New England states required residents to pay taxes to support local churches
- Why state taxes to support local churches did not violate the US Constitution before the passage of the 14th Amendment
- What type of man became an itinerant preacher
- What life was like for itinerant preachers
- Challenges early Americans faced in transportation
- Where itinerant preachers preached when they traveled throughout northern New England
- Overview of the Second Great Awakening and what caused this period of religious revivalism
- What went on during a religious revival
- Information about the Cane Ridge, Kentucky camp meeting, which served as the template for future Second Great Awakening revivals
- When religious movements in northern New England settled into permanent congregations
Links to People, Places, and Publications
Time Warp Question
In your opinion what might have happened if the physical geography of northern New England had been more similar to that of southern New England? How would our nation’s religious geography be different today if had been easy for the Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptists to establish congregations in northern New England communities?
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