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Palgrave Macmillan

Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1638–1649

Heroic Souls

  • Book
  • © 2020


  • Provides a fundamentally new understanding of the Shepard manuscripts that is based on the author’s new transcription
  • Concludes that these are not records of relations, but Shepard’s personal records of trial sessions
  • Restores the vital personal agency of the women involved in the Shepard manuscript

Part of the book series: Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World (CTAW)

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About this book

This book presents a revolutionary new reading of manuscript records left by puritan minister Thomas Shepard in Cambridge, Massachusetts that have been studied for decades as his on-the-spot recording of oral relations of faith delivered by candidates for church membership. This book proves that these records are not relations, but Shepard’s personal record of sessions of trial—meetings with candidates still working out their spiritual seeking. New transcriptions of the original manuscript records, and corresponding never-before-published writing by Shepard, dispel much of the confusion produced by the published transcriptions. Close-readings of the manuscripts, contrasted with the published transcriptions, set the stage for a new understanding of puritan spiritual preparation in Shepard’s Cambridge church. The book concludes with a challenge to the negative reading of the women’s records that is central to established scholarship, revealing their powerful, confident spiritual identities and voices.

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Table of contents (6 chapters)


“Most seventeenth-century Massachusetts churches required that prospective members tell the church convincingly of the working of God’s grace in them. Few of these conversion narratives have survived … . Records of Trials is an adventurous revisionist exploration of those Cambridge narratives.” (Michael P. Winship, Church History, Vol. 92 (4), December, 2023)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arlington, USA

    Lori Rogers-Stokes

About the author

Lori Rogers-Stokes, Ph.D., is an independent scholar and contributing editor for New England’s Hidden Histories. She studies the founding decades of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, during which forms of church and state were put in place that would shape American history for centuries to come.


Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1638–1649

  • Book Subtitle: Heroic Souls

  • Authors: Lori Rogers-Stokes

  • Series Title: Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-50844-9Published: 24 October 2020

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-50847-0Published: 25 October 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-50845-6Published: 23 October 2020

  • Series ISSN: 2634-5838

  • Series E-ISSN: 2634-5846

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XII, 190

  • Number of Illustrations: 16 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: US History, Cultural History, Social History, History of Religion, Women's Studies

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