Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

8-2010

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Arts in History

Department

History

Major Advisor

Jill K. Gill, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to take up Edmund Morgan’s thesis in The Puritan Family that the family incorporated “economic as well as political and ecclesiastical functions” and discover how the Puritan family interacted with social and political structures, in this case religion, belief, and the community, in colonial Connecticut. In order to explore such dynamics, several cases of incest will be explored. Colonial Connecticut’s history of incest prosecution provides a window into the workings of family government and its function in preparing individuals to integrate fully into Puritan society. Even as the American Puritan justice system based on sola scriptura began to give way at the close of the seventeenth- century as a result of pressure from England to conform to English common law and judicial practice, the influence of Puritan familial ideology continued to be felt well into the eighteenth century, despite seventeenth-century ministerial assertions that the New England family was in decline. With an eye on maintaining social order, the descendants of Connecticut’s founders continued to insist that the family constituted a vital force in socializing individuals into society, even as Puritanism was losing its exclusive hold over New England’s institutions.

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