Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

David Vail

Committee Members

Christopher Steinke, James Rohrer, Nathan Tye


environmental history;great awakening


The events that came to be known as “The First Great Awakening” began in the wake of Enlightenment ideas that emphasized secular rationalism. Among Christian leaders in the British colonies in North America there was a general perception that passion for religion had grown stale. Itinerant Christian preachers began to travel from town to town and organize large outdoor meetings where they preached forcefully about each individual’s responsibility for their salvation from sin. Many of these revival meetings included spontaneous outbursts of religious fervor from members of the crowd that took the form of shouting, weeping, speaking in tongues, dancing, and falling into trance-like states. These expressions were encouraged by officiating clergy as a way to create a renewal of faith and religious vitality. This thesis examines the First Great Awakening in the New England colonies of the British Empire during the first half of the eighteenth century. It focuses on the many factors that contributed to this revitalization of religious piety in the New World and especially several key environmental factors. The lasting effects of the First Great Awakening can be seen today in modern Evangelical Christianity and the development of Protestantism in the United States. However, it is critical to examine the causes of this movement and what motivated the English colonists to embrace a more active and demonstrative tradition of religious expression and identity.