The Eliot Tracts collects for the first time a series of 11 documents published in London between 1643 and 1671 that describe missionary work by the British among the Indians in New England. Written by John Eliot, Thomas Shepard, and other intellectual and political leaders among the colonists, these tracts constitute the most detailed and sustained record of missionary activity by the English in the New World in the first century of settlement. They are also one of our richest sources of ethnographic information about the Indians of Southern New England in the 17th century as recorded by the British settlers. In addition to the tracts, the volume contains two letters written by John Eliot that argue for the millennialist significance of the missionary work and so situate the missionaries' project within one of the most important theological debates of the time.
The introduction establishes the historical and theological context in which the tracts were written and published. The text of the tracts and letters is that of the original 17th-century publications, including interlinear English/Algonquian translations. Functional variations in relative font size and spacing have been retained to reproduce the visual organization of the original documents, though simplified and regularized across all the tracts to give the volume a visual conformity and coherence. An index allows readers to trace the record of particular towns and individual proselytes and missionaries across the 30 years covered by the tracts, and to follow the contributions of the different authors as they recount their experiences over that period.