May
18th 2013
John Winthrop: still controversial after all these years.

Posted under: American history, bad language, book reviews, European history

For a comment on a paper that I’m giving this afternoon, I needed to check a quotation from The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649 (1996), edited by Richard Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle, the most recent and authoritative edition of Winthrop’s journals.  I should have done this at home, as I own this 799 page doorstop of a book, but luckily I found that the relevant passage was available via Google books.  Yay!  Mission accomplished.  Thanks, internets!

But wait:  there are two online reviews of Winthrop’s journal, which I thought was pretty interesting as he’s been dead since 1649.   “Imi” wrote, “Thank God we only have to read a small part of it for a lecture, because even those couple of pages were really boring. I don’t think I’ll ever read the whole thing, it’s not interesting at all. The bit with the serpent and the mouse was good, though, with the interpretation, but that was it for me.”  (The serpent and the mouse–was that a parable about the Antinomian controversy, or an allusion to the political ambitions of Sir Henry Vane?  I’ll have to look that up.)  “Amy” left an even pithier review:  “Governor Winthrop is an a**hole.”

And they gave him just two stars out of five!  Methinks that “Imi” and “Amy” might really be sock puppets for John Wheelwright.  (These reviews were of the abridged edition, not the full version–maybe that was the problem.)

2 Comments »

2 Responses to “John Winthrop: still controversial after all these years.”

  1. Indyanna on 18 May 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Bummer, first of all, because I thought we were going to get an assignment to ransack our personal or institutional libraries for this title, and what better excuse to put grading on hiatus… but…

    Amazon.com reviews ought to be put at the center of the reconstruction of scholarship. I got roasted there by a couple of alleged readers. Only to be rescued a few, well, months later, by someone claiming to have actually had a class with me, who said, something like “sure [this book] is a little boring, but at least you learn something…. If you can’t take the pressure, watch the History Channel!!” What thoughtful academic colleague would have come out with two fists blazing like that in an unsponsored, unblurbified review?

  2. Susan on 18 May 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    You wonder who was missing what in this. Though it might be fun to have an assignment where students wrote reviews of primary sources. needless to say, the ones on Winthrop would be nice strong Fs!

    Indyanna’s comment made me go look at my Amazon reviews, of which there is only one, and that reasonably smart and accurate (i.e. pretty positive, and the criticisms are not crazy)… I guess the students who have to read my books enjoy them!

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