There are many ways to read more about Roger Williams. Biographies have been written about him for hundreds of years, and he will always be present in any history of Rhode Island, or the city of Providence, or the broader Puritan movement that settled much of New England. This short guide is intended to help students, teachers and parents who wish to read more about a figure who continues to fascinate and occasionally frustrate us, much as he did his contemporaries. It is by no means comprehensive, but will give a start to those who wish to explore further.

The Writings of Roger Williams: 

It can be difficult to read writings that are more than three centuries old, contain variant spellings, and deal with divisive religious arguments.  But there is no better way to appreciate the subtlety of the thinking of Roger Williams, and the stubbornness that he brought to everything that he did.  These books are largely out of print, but can be found in the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society, open to the public.  The Correspondence is an especially good way to begin, with excellent commentary from its editor.   

  • Howard M. Chapin, ed., Letters and Papers of Roger Williams, 1629-1682 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1924)
  • Howard M. Chapin, List of Roger Williams’ Writings (Providence: Preston and Rounds, 1918)
  • Linford D. Fisher, Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island’s Founding Father (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014)
  • Glenn LaFantaisie, ed., The Correspondence of Roger Williams (Providence: Brown University Press/Rhode Island Historical Society, 1988)
  • Roger Williams, Complete Writings (seven volumes; New York: Russell and Russell, 1963)
  • Roger Williams, Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health (ed. Winthrop S. Hudson; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1951)
  • Roger Williams, A Key into the Language of America (ed. Howard M. Chapin; Providence: Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Tercentenary Commission, 1936)


There have been many biographies of Roger Williams written, but this short list concentrates on relatively recent work, available in local libraries.

  • John M. Barry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty (New York: Viking, 2012)
  • Perry Miller, Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition (Indianapolis:  Bobbs-Merrill, 1953)
  • Edmund S. Morgan, Roger Williams: The Church and the State (New York: W.W. Norton, 1967)
  • Ola Elizabeth Winslow, Master Roger Williams: A Biography (New York: Macmillan, 1957)

Rhode Island History:

Any student interested in doing additional work on the history of Rhode Island should consult the friendly librarians and the collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Providence Public Library and the Providence Athenaeum, in addition to other public libraries.  This short list offers a mere beginning.

  • Carl Bridenbaugh, Fat Mutton and Liberty of Conscience: Society in Rhode Island, 1636-1690 (Providence: Brown University Press, 1974)
  • John Hutchins Cady, The Civic and Architectural Development of Providence (Providence: The Book Shop, 1957)
  • Howard M. Chapin, ed., Documentary History of Rhode Island (Providence: Preston and Rounds, 1919)
  • Howard M. Chapin, Sachems of the Narragansetts (Providence: Rhode Island Historical Society 1931)
  • Patrick T. Conley and Paul R. Campbell, Providence:  A Pictorial History (Virginia Beach: Donning, 1981)
  • Jay Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade, 1700-1807 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981)
  • Antoinette Forrester Downing, Early Homes of Rhode Island (Richmond: Garrett and Massie, 1937)
  • Robert A. Geake, A History of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island: Keepers of the Bay (Charleston: History Press, 2011)
  • Sydney V. James, Colonial Rhode Island: A History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975)
  • Gertrude Selwyn Kimball, Providence in Colonial Times (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1912)
  • J. Stanley Lemons, The First Baptist Church in America (Providence: Charitable Baptist Society, 2001)
  • Rhode Island: A Guide to the Smallest State (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1937)
  • Sidney S. Rider, The Lands of Rhode Island as They Were Known to Caunonicus and Miantunnomu, When Roger Williams Came in 1636 (Providence: Author, 1903)
  • William R. Staples, Annals of the Town of Providence, from its First Settlement, to the Organization of the City Government, in June 1832 (Providence: Knowles and Vose, 1843)
  • William McLoughlin, Rhode Island: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978)
  • Christopher L. Pastore, Between Land and Sea: The Atlantic Coast and the Transformation of New England (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014)
  • Howard S. Russell, Indian New England Before the Mayflower (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1980)
  • William Babcock Weeden, Early Rhode Island: A Social History of the People (New York: Grafton, 1910)
  • Carl R. Woodward, Plantation in Yankeeland: The Story of Cocumcussoc, Mirror of Colonial Rhode Island (Wickford: Cocumcussoc Association, 1971)

Additional Sources:

Some excellent research on Roger Williams has appeared in academic journals, or in books that attempt to write history from a different point of view.  Here is a sampling: 

  • Anthony O. Carlino, “Roger Williams and His Place in History:  The Background and the Last Quarter Century,” Rhode Island History 58:2 (May 2000), 35-71
  • John Dos Passos, The Ground We Stand On: Some Examples from the History of a Political Creed (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1947)
  • Jonathan Beecher Field, “A Key for the Gate: Roger Williams, Parliament, and Providence,” New England Quarterly (September 2007)
  • Glenn LaFantaisie, “A Day in the Life of Roger Williams,” Rhode Island History (August 1987)
  • J. Stanley Lemons, “Roger Williams Not a Seeker But a “Witness in Sackcloth,”  New England Quarterly (December 2015), 693-714  
  • Nancy E. Peace, “Roger Williams –A Historiographical Essay,” Rhode Island History 35:4 (November 1974), 103-114   [CHECK DATE – 76?]
  • Mary Lee Settle, I, Roger Williams: A Fragment of Autobiography (fictionalized),  New York: W.W. Norton, 2001
  • Slavery and Justice: Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice (Providence: Brown University, 2006)