University of Leicester

File(s) under permanent embargo

Reason: This item is currently closed access.

Godly Violence: Military Providentialism In The Puritan Atlantic World, 1636–1676

posted on 2019-02-01, 10:02 authored by Matthew P. Rowley
This thesis recounts the Puritan struggle for military hegemony and the more difficult contest for an authoritative interpretation of divine communications through war. It asks a simple question: What did Puritans (‘the godly’) say God did in warfare; and how did they claim to know? I have given the term ‘military providentialism’ to the attempt to understand God’s will and agency in war; ‘godly violence’ to the conclusion that an act of killing was both just and holy. These twin themes are explored by looking at Puritan warfare against four groups: Native Americans, royalist Episcopalians, Irish Catholics and Scottish Presbyterians. A situational case study approach is used to examine complex and competing providentialisms after decisive victories. The case studies bear witness to the complicated relationship between texts, beliefs, circumstances and actions. It also evidences the immense energy and creativity that went into dynamic and richly textured beliefs about God and warfare. Five victories are examined: Mystic Massacre (1637), Battle of Naseby (1645), Siege of Drogheda (1649), Battle of Dunbar (1650) and the Great Swamp Fight (1675). This is the first comprehensive study of the providence surrounding these decisive victories. In the case of Naseby, Dunbar and Drogheda, none have given a detailed study of providentialism. Scholars have paid careful attention to the theology of the Mystic Massacre and the Great Swamp Fight. The primary contribution of the New England chapters is to compare the theology of killing Native Americans with that used against other enemies. These cross-conflict case studies facilitate many comparisons, some of which are explored in the concluding chapter. Additionally, the conclusion makes two contributions: it argues for a new understanding of the relationship between justice and holiness and for a deeper understanding of the function of Scripture and providence in conflict.



Coffey, John; Hopper, Andrew

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Historical Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


The file associated with this record is under embargo while under discussion with the Doctoral College.



Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Theses


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager