Saturday, May 22, 2010

Puritans as Entrepreneurs?

Business and economic historians might be interested in Nick Bunker's Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World, A New History (Random House, April, 2010).  It is reviewed, for example, in the Washington Post by Yale's John Demos, at Salon.com, and in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review by Russell Shorto (author of The Island at the Center of the World). A Financial Times review of the British edition is also available. Bunker, formerly an investment banker, offers a wide-ranging view of the English settlers as concerned not only with God, but also with politics and profit. In the words of the FT reviewer:
The religious zeal of the Separatists, which has long been seen as the driving force behind the foundation of New England, is revealed by Bunker to be as much a tool for gaining financial backing as the following of a call from a higher being. Indeed the Pilgrims often appear to have been guided as much by the Invisible Hand of the market as by that of Jehovah.
Among scholars of the period, the view of the Pilgrims as complex people with complex motives is not entirely new, but, as John Demos writes, "Bunker does far better than any predecessor at recreating the entire climate in which Pilgrim thought and action emerged. "
    Readers can find excerpts from the book on the NYTimes page, as well as on the Random House site