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From rich and varied sources—many neglected and unknown—Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum give us a picture of the people and events more intricate and more fascinating than any other in the massive literature. It is a story of powerful and deeply divided families and of a community determined to establish an independent identity—beset by restraints and opposition from without and factional conflicts from within—and a minister whose obsessions helped to bring this volatile mix to the flash point. Not simply a dramatic and isolated event, the Salem outbreak has wider implications for our understanding of developments central to the American experience: the disintegration of Puritanism, the pressures of land and population in New England towns, the problems besetting farmer and householder, the shifting role of the church, and the powerful impact of commercial capitalism.
For over a century, dark visions of moral collapse and social disintegration in American cities spurred an anxious middle class to search for ways to restore order. In this important book, Paul Boyer explores the links between the urban reforms of the Progressive era and the long efforts of prior generations to tame the cities. He integrates the ideologies of urban crusades with an examination of the careers and the mentalities of a group of vigorous activists, including Lyman Beecher; the pioneers of the tract societies and Sunday schools; Charles Loring Brace of the Children's Aid Society; Josephine Shaw Lowell of the Charity Organization movement; the father of American playgrounds, Joseph Lee; and the eloquent city planner Daniel Hudson Burnham.
Boyer describes the early attempts of Jacksonian evangelicals to recreate in the city the social equivalent of the morally homogeneous village; he also discusses later strategies that tried to exert a moral influence on urban immigrant families by voluntarist effort, including, for instance, the Charity Organizations' "friendly visitors." By the 1890s there had developed two sharply divergent trends in thinking about urban planning and social control: the bleak assessment that led to coercive strategies and the hopeful evaluation that emphasized the importance of environmental betterment as a means of urban moral control.
The book is based on a wide range of sources, including cartoons, opinion polls, radio programs, movies, literature, song lyrics, slang, and interviews with leading opinion-makers of the time. Through these materials, Boyer shows the surprising and profoundly disturbing ways in which the bomb quickly and totally penetrated the fabric of American life, from the chillingly prophetic forecasts of observers like Lewis Mumford to the Hollywood starlet who launched her career as the 'anatomic bomb.'
In a new preface, Boyer discusses recent changes in nuclear politics and attitudes toward the nuclear age.
The first edition of Purity in Print documented book censorship in America from the 1870s to the 1930s, embedding it within the larger social and cultural history of the time. In this second edition, Boyer adds two new chapters carrying his history forward to the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Millions of Americans take the Bible at its word and turn to like-minded local ministers and TV preachers, periodicals and paperbacks for help in finding their place in God’s prophetic plan for mankind. And yet, influential as this phenomenon is in the worldview of so many, the belief in biblical prophecy remains a popular mystery, largely unstudied and little understood. When Time Shall Be No More offers for the first time an in-depth look at the subtle, pervasive ways in which prophecy belief shapes contemporary American thought and culture.
Belief in prophecy dates back to antiquity, and there Paul Boyer begins, seeking out the origins of this particular brand of faith in early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings, then tracing its development over time. Against this broad historical overview, the effect of prophecy belief on the events and themes of recent decades emerges in clear and striking detail. Nuclear war, the Soviet Union, Israel and the Middle East, the destiny of the United States, the rise of a computerized global economic order―Boyer shows how impressive feats of exegesis have incorporated all of these in the popular imagination in terms of the Bible’s apocalyptic works. Reflecting finally on the tenacity of prophecy belief in our supposedly secular age, Boyer considers the direction such popular conviction might take―and the forms it might assume―in the post–Cold War era.
The product of a four-year immersion in the literature and culture of prophecy belief, When Time Shall Be No More serves as a pathbreaking guide to this vast terra incognita of contemporary American popular thought―a thorough and thoroughly fascinating index to its sources, its implications, and its enduring appeal.