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The Great Awakening A Brief History with Documents



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Bedford/St. Martin's
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In the mid-eighteenth century, Americans experienced an outbreak of religious revivals that shook colonial society. This book provides a definitive view of these revivals, now known as the First Great Awakening, and their dramatic effects on American culture. Historian Thomas S. Kidd tells the absorbing story of early American evangelical Christianity through the lives of seminal figures like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield as well as many previously unknown preachers, prophets, and penitents. The Great Awakening helped create the evangelical movement, which heavily emphasized the individual's experience of salvation and the Holy Spirit's work in revivals. By giving many evangelicals radical notions of the spiritual equality of all people, the revivals helped breed the democratic style that would come to characterize the American republic. Kidd carefully separates the positions of moderate supporters of the revivals from those of radical supporters, and he delineates the objections of those who completely deplored the revivals and their wildly egalitarian consequences. The battles among these three camps, the author shows, transformed colonial America and ultimately defined the nature of the evangelical movement.

Author Biography

THOMAS S. KIDD (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of history at Baylor University. He has focused his research on American religion and has published several articles on the subject, especially on the colonial period. He has authored the books The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism and Awakenings: The First Generation of American Evangelical Christianity. Professor Kidd has led a Baylor conference on the global challenges facing Christianity, served on the university’s advisory presidential search committee, and works as a mentor to the university’s Crane Scholars Program.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



List of Illustrations

PART ONE. INTRODUCTION: The Contest over the Great Awakening

The Revivals Begin

George Whitefield: A Media Sensation

The Awakenings Flourish, 1740–1743

Signs and Wonders


Debating the Awakenings

Revivals in the South

Separatists and Baptists

Historians, the Great Awakening, and the American Revolution

Evaluating the First Great Awakening and American Evangelicalism


Jonathan Edwards and the 1735 Northampton Revival

1. Jonathan Edwards, A Faithful Narrative, 1737

2. Timothy Cutler, Critique of the Northampton Awakening, 1739

George Whitefield: The Grand Itinerant

3. George Whitefield, Journals, 1735–1740

4. Stephen Bordley, On George Whitefield, 1739

5. Josiah Smith, The Character, Preaching, &c. of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, 1740

6. Benjamin Franklin, Advertisement of Whitefield Engravings, 1742

7. Yale College, The Declaration of the Rector and Tutors, 1745

Revivals, Conversions, and Spiritual Experiences

8. Gilbert Tennent, The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, 1740

9. Nathan Cole, A Farmer Hears Whitefield Preach, 1740

10. Samson Occom, Conversion, 1740

11. Hannah Heaton, A Farm Woman’s Conversion, 1741

12. Daniel Rogers, Diary, 1741–1742

13. Anonymous, A Vision of Heaven and Hell, 1742

14. Mercy Wheeler, A Physical Healing, 1743

15. Samuel Blair, A Short and Faithful Narrative, 1744

16. Samuel Buell, A Faithful Narrative of the Remarkable Revival of Religion, 1766

17. John Marrant, A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings, 1785

Defining the Boundaries of the Great Awakening

18. Jonathan Edwards, The Distinguishing Marks, 1741

19. A.M., The State of Religion in New England, 1742

20. Boston News-Letter, James Davenport’s Arrest, 1742

21. The Testimony and Advice of an Assembly of Pastors, 1743

22. Boston Evening-Post, James Davenport’s Book and Clothes Burning, 1743

23. James Davenport, Confession and Retractions, 1744

Evangelicals in the South

24. George Whitefield, To the Inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, North and South-Carolina, 1740

25. Boston Post-Boy, Hugh Bryan’s Radicalism, 1742

26. Samuel Davies, On Virginia’s Christian Slaves, 1757

27. Charles Woodmason, Evangelicals in the Southern Backcountry, 1767–1768

28. Daniel Fristoe, A Baptismal Service in Virginia, 1771

29. Morgan Edwards, A Public Baptism, 1770

Separatists, Baptists, and Religious Liberty

30. Boston Gazette, Church Separation in Canterbury, Connecticut, 1742

31. A Letter from the Associated Ministers, 1745

32. Solomon Paine, Petition for Religious Liberty, 1748

33. Isaac Backus, Reasons for Separation, 1756

34. Isaac Backus, Conversion to Baptist Principles, 1751

35. Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773

36. John Leland, The Rights of Conscience Inalienable, 1791


A Chronology of the Great Awakening (1727–1791)

Questions for Consideration

Selected Bibliography


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