39 minutes | Jan 19th 2021

Daniel T. Rodgers, "As a City on a Hill: The Story of America's Most Famous Lay Sermon" (Princeton UP, 2020)

Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, John Winthrop's famous phrase, "We shall be as a city upon a hill," has become political creed and rallying cry for American exceptionalism. But for over three centuries the text of Winthrop's "Model of Christian Charity" was largely forgotten in the American textual canon. In a charming book of textual history, the Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, Daniel T. Rodgers, tells a fascinating tale with surprising twists and turns about how an obscure Puritan treatise became indispensable political rhetoric for late-twentieth-century American politics and into the new millennium. As a City on a Hill: The Story of America's Most Famous Lay Sermon (Princeton University Press, 2018) traces Winthrop's model from its seventeenth-century context, through centuries of neglect and forgetfulness, to its unlikely and meteoric rise as a foundational text of the American idea.

Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.

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