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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Publication details for Professor Alec Ryrie

Ryrie, Alec (2016). Facing Childhood Death in English Protestant Spirituality. In Death, Emotion and Childhood in Premodern Europe. Barclay, Katie, Rawnsley, Ciara & Reynolds, Kimberley London: Palgrave Macmillan. 109-127.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter examines seventeenth-century English Puritan discussions of childhood death, notably those of Nehemiah Wallington and James Janeway, in order to argue that Puritan and Calvinist theology offered important resources to parents and children facing childhood death. Examining how deaths were confronted and were used pedagogically demonstrates how effectively Puritanism, especially the doctrine of predestination, could be used both to console grief and to train and discipline the young. The chapter also examines how Puritan parents of sick children used their religion to manage their fear and distress, from sometimes manipulative attempts to use prayer to change the outcome of an illness, to the struggle which parents and children shared to find assurance and spiritual solace in and despite physical suffering and impending death.