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Published in The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 66, No. 4 (Dec., 1994), pp. 783-784 Copyright (c) The University of Chicago Press. Used by permission.


David Underdown, one of the foremost scholars of seventeenth-century England, has produced major political studies, such as Pride's Purge: Politics in the Puritan Revolution (Oxford, 1971), and works that combined social history with political change, such as Revel, Riot, and Rebellion (New York, 1985). Fire from Heaven is a case study of the west-county town of Dorchester, a proud and important community in the first half of the seventeenth century. The material and close reading of Dorchester's records are fascinating and give us insight into the lives of the forgotten people. This book offers a key into the mental world of some of the leading families of Dorchester. Yet this book is far more than a local history. By focusing on the efforts for godly reformation in Dorchester, and the resistance of such efforts, Underdown uses Dorchester as a microcosm of the struggles of Puritanism in early Stuart and Civil War England. This case study helps us to understand more about the underlying religious and social ruptures that led to the midcentury revolution. Underdown's study substantially adds to the debate on the nature of Puritanism. While he admits that the term itself is a modem abstraction, he argues that it also has important historical validity. ... David Underdown has produced a book that, while solidly researched and sophisticated in its analysis, is also elegantly and accessibly written. Both scholars of seventeenth-century England and a more general audience will learn from and appreciate this study.

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