George Whitefield stood as one of the most visible figures in British North America between the 1740s and 1770. He was a central figure in the trans-Atlantic revivalist movement and a man whose legacy remains influential to evangelical Christians today.
Historian Jessica Parr, author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon, introduces us to the Reverend George Whitefield.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In today’s episode, Jessica Parr, an historian of early modern Atlantic and religious history and author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon, introduces us to the Reverend George Whitefield, a prominent figure in the trans-Atlantic revivalist movement that took place between the 1730s and 1750s.
During our conversation, Jessica reveals who George Whitefield was and why he was an important person in early American religious history; what the First Great Awakening was, how the event affected the religious landscape of early America, and where George Whitefield fit into that landscape; And where George Whitefield stood on the issue of slavery.
What You’ll Discover
- How Jessica became interested in Atlantic History
- How historians define the “early modern” period
- Who George Whitefield was and why he was an important person in early American history
- How George Whitefield met the Wesley Brothers, the founders of Methodism and the impact the Wesleys had on his spiritual life
- How George Whitefield paid his way through Pembroke College in Oxford, England
- Information about Methodism as an Anglican Church reform movement
- Doctrinal differences between Anglicanism and Methodism
- The ideas behind the revivalist doctrine of regeneration
- What types of texts made up the over 18,000 texts that Whitefield published during his lifetime
- How Whitefield’s writings helped him further his public image and fame
- Whitefield’s motives for portraying himself like biblical personages
- Whitefield’s thoughts about the colonies and why he liked preaching in Georgia
- Information about colonial Georgia and its settlement
- Overview of the First Great Awakening and how it affected the religious landscape of colonial America
- Where George Whitefield stood on slavery and why he both criticized and defended the institution
- Why Whitefield saw slavery as an economic solution to poverty in Georgia
- The effect George Whitefield’s preaching had on slaves and African Americans
- Information about Phillis Wheatley
- Information about Samson Occom
- How George Whitefield came to be entombed underneath the Newburyport Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts
- How people remembered Whitefield after his death and why many groups wanted to adopt his legacy to support their religious and moral causes
- Details about Whitefield’s grave as a pilgrimage site for Protestants
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Jessica's Contributor page on The Junto
- Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon
- Jessica's Blog: Providential Atlantic
- Jessica’s LinkedIn Profile
- Jessica’s Academia.edu Profile
- Jessica’s Twitter: @ProvAtlantic
What might have happened if George Whitefield had lived beyond 1770 and through the American Revolution? Do you think he would have been a Patriot, a Loyalist, or someone who tried to maintain a neutral course? What effect do you think he would have had on the course of the Revolution?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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