Synopses & Reviews
is a compelling original exploration of moral conviction and commercial culture in early New England. Boldly challenging the view that the demise of piety was a condition for the rise of opportunistic market behavior, Valeri finds that New England's ministers and merchants were neither traditionalists eclipsed by a secularizing Atlantic world nor easy protocapitalists rushing into modernity. He discloses a commercial community that was intent upon righteous trading and pious living."--Cathy Matson, University of Delaware
"Heavenly Merchandize is a magisterial account of the interplay of economics and religion in early America. In place of abstract theories of 'modernization' or 'the spirit of capitalism,' Valeri engages representative figures on the ground, and through their stories narrates the ways in which transformations in religious thought actually shaped a premodern market culture. Students of early American religion, economics, and imperialism will have to consult this seminal work."--Harry S. Stout, Yale University
"Heavenly Merchandize treats the interconnected transformations of theology and the market in New England from earliest settlement in the 1620s to the mid-eighteenth century. The brilliance of Valeri's presentation is that he grounds it in the biographies and extensive testimonies of Boston merchants. In thoroughness, depth, scope, and significance, I rank this among a very elite group of truly seminal books."--Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame
"An important and powerfully argued narrative. This work is large in scope and ambition. It assesses more than a century of change in the complex relationship between religious beliefs, practices, and disciplinary standards and the evolution of commercial and market behavior in colonial New England. Valeri takes his subject head-on and in full, knowing the pitfalls and the controversies that lie along the path."--Mark Peterson, University of California, Berkeley
Heavenly Merchandize offers a critical reexamination of religion's role in the creation of a market economy in early America. Focusing on the economic culture of New England, it views commerce through the eyes of four generations of Boston merchants, drawing upon their personal letters, diaries, business records, and sermon notes to reveal how merchants built a modern form of exchange out of profound transitions in the puritan understanding of discipline, providence, and the meaning of New England.
Mark Valeri traces the careers of men like Robert Keayne, a London immigrant punished by his church for aggressive business practices; John Hull, a silversmith-turned-trader who helped to establish commercial networks in the West Indies; and Hugh Hall, one of New England's first slave traders. He explores how Boston ministers reconstituted their moral languages over the course of a century, from a scriptural discourse against many market practices to a providential worldview that justified England's commercial hegemony and legitimated the market as a divine construct. Valeri moves beyond simplistic readings that reduce commercial activity to secular mind-sets, and refutes the popular notion of an inherent affinity between puritanism and capitalism. He shows how changing ideas about what it meant to be pious and puritan informed the business practices of Boston's merchants, who filled their private notebooks with meditations on scripture and the natural order, founded and led churches, and inscribed spiritual reflections in their letters and diaries.
Unprecedented in scope and rich with insights, Heavenly Merchandize illuminates the history behind the continuing American dilemma over morality and the marketplace.
About the Author
Mark Valeri is the Ernest Trice Thompson Professor of Church History at the Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Virginia. His books include Law and Providence in Joseph Bellamys New England: The Origins of the New Divinity in Revolutionary America and The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix