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294 Shorter Book Reviews and parents for control of newly-liberated slave children says more about the freedmen's status than about childhood. In one instance, though, the adult orientation pays unexpected dividends, when Nancy Pottishman Weiss reverses the usual interpretaion of Dr. Spock by decrying his permissive demolition of rules and schedules that had made mothers' lives manageable. Ingenious essays such as Weiss's show the promise of this field, though it is evident that many historians of childhood in the late 1970s were still preoccupied with mining-out documents and basic information. Syntheses were hard to come by and essentially speculative. Rodgers built his around cultural values; others have looked to demography. Hiner and Hawes reprint Peter Uhlenberg's useful outline of ways the huge decline in mortality rates since 1900 must have reshaped relations between adults and children. They also include Robert Wells's attempt to explain the demographic transition as resulting from a modernizing revolution in values. But it is apparent that the history of childhood consisted in the late 1970s (and still does) of fragments in search of a synthesis. David Macleod Department of History Central Michigan University Thomas M. Doerflinger. A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1986. xvi + 413 pp. Make no mistake, this is a fine book. As a social analysis it is thorough, as a description of early American business practices it is enlightening, as an argument in the historiographical and economic writings of the period it is provocative, and as a piece of literature it is polished. Grounded in an exhaustive study of Philadelphia's merchants during the last half of the eighteenth century-who they were, how they lived, where they came from, what befell them, and how they carried on private and public business-Mr. Doerflinger' s book deals with the structure of mercantile activities in the years before, during, and after the Revolution, demonstrating how the conditions of each era generated new structural profiles and different patterns of behaviour. It is by far the best study integrating business and social history that we now have for the period, a fitting restoration of the pre-eminence of the mid-Atlantic in such a topic. Building on his strengths as a business-social historian, the author's major achievement is in speaking so well to so many interpretive issues during the three periods. For each of these periods Mr. Doerflinger offers important conclusions. He argues that those who have described the colonial Philadelphia merchants asa class have badly misunderstood the social structure of that city and the "amor- Shorter Book Reviews 295 phous, divided, unorganized" (15) nature of the groups involved in mercantile pursuits.If we accept this argument and the attendant ones that pre-Revolutionary Pennsylvaniaenjoyed a general prosperity and that opportunity for social mobility intomercantile ranks was never noticeably constricted for long, the accomplishmentsof the neo-progressive historians with whom Mr. Doerflinger takes issue arereduced virtually to an emphasis on lower-class poverty which in this, as in otherperiods of American history, may have become more acute in the midst of prosperity. As for the revolutionary movement itself, Mr. Doerflinger continues hisrevisionism. He demonstrates very clearly that with the notable exception of threeor four individuals, merchants were not leading dissidents. The conservative bentof Philadelphia's mercantile community depended on a number of circumstances , perhaps the most widely shared of which was the fact that successful mercantile risk-takers generally wanted to perpetuate the political system under which they gained their assets. Beyond that, the structural economic crises (consisting of rapid expansion and contraction of colonial credit by British wholesalers between 1761 and 1775) that neo-progressive historians have sketched out as a source of colonial economic malaise, was insufficiently unsettling to threaten many merchants or to undermine the general conditions of economic prosperity. During the war years, merchants, like Americans in general, went through a great variety of experiences. Mr. Doerflinger describes these well, picking out incidents that illustrate the diversity. Mercantile opportunity existed, but not to thedegree that historians critical of wartime profiteering often...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 297-298
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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