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Since the turn of the millennium it has become increasingly common for general histories of magic and witchcraft to include a section on the phenomenon of magic in the contemporary western world, but the precise relationship between contemporary manifestations of magical belief and their historical antecedents is rarely explored.
Jane Lead and the Philadelphian Society are not particularly well known figures to most scholars of late 17th- and early 18th-century religion. Born in 1624, Lead experienced a spiritual awakening aged 16. On Christmas Day 1640, while her family danced and celebrated, she was overwhelmed with a ‘beam of Godly light’ and a gentle inner voice offering spiritual guidance.
American evangelicalism has, for some time, been dominated by Baptists. American Baptist churches attract tens of millions of worshippers, and the Southern Baptist Convention stands unrivalled as the single largest Protestant denomination in the country. And yet, despite their numerical hegemony, American Baptists have not attracted commensurate attention from historians.
We are now a generation into an ‘Atlantic turn’ in writing early American history. Jordan Landes and Abram C. Van Engen make welcome, but different, contributions through their arguments about emotions in Puritan New England and networking by London Quakers.
Evan Haefeli’s excellent new book, New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty, does nothing less than expand and transform our understanding of religious diversity and toleration in colonial Dutch North America.
John Smolenski, Associate Professor of History at University of California- Davis, begins his tome, Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania (a work within the Early American Studies series) with an appropriate discussion of and lesson on the complex etymology of the word creole.
The growth of academic interest in the ‘Iberian Atlantic World’ during the last decade has also witnessed the expansion of scholarship on the presence of, and role played in it by, Judeoconversos (or ‘New Christians’): the descendants of Jews who were converted (often by force) to Christianity in the 14th and 15th centuries.