An account of the role of millennial thinking in the age of the American Revolution, this book demonstrates the popularity and diffusion of millennial expectations among several types of American Protestants by the middle of the eighteenth century and illuminates the way these hopes shaped the understanding of the Revolution and the symbolic meaning of the new nation. Unlike most previous works, this study extends well beyond the social and geographic perimeters of the New England clergy and is based on a wide range of secular as well as religious literature. The book not only sheds new light on the role of religion in the American Revolution, but it also surveys an important facet of the intellectual history of the early Republic. Analysing the interplay of millennial, republican, and Enlightenment ideas about the future, the author reveals both complementary and contradictory themes in American thought of an older cultural tradition of millennialism while at the same time tracing variations and changes within that tradition during this formative period of American history.
'Visionary Republic is an excellent book. By forcing us to confront the breadth and richness of millennialist thought in the Revolutionary age, Bloch challenges many comfortable generalizations about the sources and substance of early American political thought.' Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 'This helpful book succeeds on several levels. It offers first a thorough canvassing of American millennial and apocalyptic writing from before the French and Indian War through the administration of Thomas Jefferson ... But the most significant contribution of Visionary Republic is its patient explanation of the means by which millennial thought interacted with the major political ideas of the period.' Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 'For at least twenty years, American historians have explored the impact of belief in the millennium upon the thinking of the revolutionary generation. In their pioneering works, Alan Heimert and Ernest Tuveson emphasized the uniqueness of the American interpretation of the millennial tradition ... Ruth Bloch's fine study builds upon all these earlier works. Drawing on an analysis of all the source materials pertaining to the millennium printed in the American colonies and the United States during the second half of the eighteenth century, she concludes that millennialism was of central importance because it 'provided the main structure of meaning through which contemporary events were linked to an exalted image of an ideal world'.' Journal of American History 'To have displayed the scope and breadth of millennial themes in popular culture is in itself a significant contribution ... Bloch has read carefully and widely, intelligently and sometimes brilliantly, to interpret popular expectancy in the late eighteenth century. It is a pleasure to experience the vision with her.' William and Mary Quarterly