Current Research

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The Memoirs of Josiah Cotton & Allied Documents (Forthcoming)

Josiah Cotton (1680–1756) ranks among the least known but most intriguing cultural critics in eighteenth-century New England. From 1727 until his death in 1756, the enterprising Plymouth, Massachusetts, schoolmaster, county court justice, and Indian missionary retreated to his study on his birthday to record the “remarkable occurrences” of the previous year. Each annual narrative moved outward from personal and family business, to local events, to regional political and religious developments, and, finally, to news spanning the British empire. In addition to providing his own commentary on these wide-ranging issues, Cotton transcribed important letters from numerous correspondents; copied religious meditations, moral maxims, and funeral elegies; kept a running record of notable deaths in Plymouth; and accounted for ministerial ordinations and dismissals. Written with flair and occasional humor, The Memoirs of Josiah Cotton constitutes an unusually detailed and engaging history of provincial New England. Scheduled to appear in the Colonial Society of Massachusetts’ distinguished Publications series, the volume also includes Cotton’s extant correspondence, essays, and court records from the best-documented haunted house incident in British North America.


Shakers & the Shawnee PRophet

I am currently engaged in a new research project that traces the development of the earliest Shaker communities in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana and examines their encounters with members of the pan-Indian nativist movement led by Tenskwatawa—the famed Shawnee Indian prophet and brother of the prominent war captain Tecumseh—between 1805 and 1815. Written in an accessible narrative style for a broad audience of scholars, students, and general readers interested in frontier revivalism, early American evangelicalism, native American religions, and the history of religion and violence, Shakers & the Shawnee Prophet is the first book-length study to establish direct connections between the bodily fits and convulsions that dominated the Great Revival among white settlers living along the trans-Appalachian frontier and new religious movements that developed simultaneously among the native peoples of the Old Northwest. The Shakers’ exceptionally well-documented encounters with frontier revivalers and the Shawnee Prophet is a powerful story that will resonate with readers struggling to come to terms with the troubled relationship between religion and racial violence in our own time.