The Great Awakening
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The Great Awakening. 1730s-1740s. What was the significance of the Enlightenment in America? In what ways did the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening prompt Americans to challenge traditional sources of authority?

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The great awakening

The Great Awakening



What was the significance of the Enlightenment in America?

In what ways did the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening prompt Americans to challenge traditional sources of authority?

How did the Baptists in Virginia challenge conventional assumptions about race, gender, and class in the colony?


The great awakening


  • Philosophical movement throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries

  • Emphasis on REASON as the most important human ability

  • John Locke, a philosopher, argued that people possessed “natural rights” given to humans by God: life, liberty, property.

    • The purpose of government, then, was to protect those rights.

  • Others, like the Baron de Montesquieu, argued that absolute monarchy went against natural, God-given rights

  • In this manner, colonial leaders believed British government was violating these rights; how were they to overcome oppression?



What was the great awakening
What was the Great Awakening?

  • Religious revival movement

  • Evangelicalism – “new birth” considered the ultimate religious experience

  • Followers accepted that they were sinners and asked for salvation

George Whitefield preaching

Before the great awakening
Before the Great Awakening

  • Before the 1730s, most colonies had two established religions.

  • Congregationalismwas the largest religion in New England (Puritans and other dissidents who broke away from the Church of England).

  • Anglicanismwas the largest religion in New York and the Southern colonies (same as the Church of England).

Old lights vs new lights
Old Lights vs. New Lights

  • Churches that grew as a result of the Great Awakening: Presbyterianism, Methodism, Baptism (New Lights)

  • Great Awakening challenged authority and hierarchy of established churches (Old Lights: Congregationalists and Anglicans)

  • Great Awakening said that anybody could be converted and born again. You didn’t need traditional church leadership to decide whether or not you belonged.

Leaders of the great awakening
Leaders of the Great Awakening

Jonathan Edwards

George Whitefield

The great awakening

Central Historical Question:

Why was George Whitefield so popular?

The great awakening

Review: The Great Awakening


  • GA: religious movement throughout colonies in 1700s, based on revivalism—stressed individual religious experience rather than needing church leaders as intermediary with God

  • Contributed to a sense of quality for all, since all were qualified to take an active role in the church

  • Widely believed that this movement was a major factor leading to a sense of freedom and independence within the colonies



The great awakening

Review: The Great Awakening

  • Some Puritans moved away from original ideal, beginning to seek material comforts

  • As result, Puritan church attendance declined

  • Some Puritan clergy, such as Edwards and Whitefield sought to restore the “ideal” and increase church attendance through a “rebirth” of religion

  • Sought to Christianize all of North America, by bringing Native Americans and Africans into organized religion

The great awakening

Similarities/Differences of the Enlightenment

and the Great Awakening

  • Enlightenment sought to use scientific methods and rational thought to explain natural phenomena as something beyond an “act of God”

  • Great Awakening saw Puritan ideal in saving people from decay; sought to return people back to religious lifestyle

  • Enlightenment supported reason; GA supports emotionalism and religious faith

  • Both groups question traditional authority and practice

  • Both groups highlight the importance of the individual over the authority of the government or church