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Shorter Book Reviews 125 those who try to find only injustice, inequality, fragmentation and political elitism in eighteenth-century America. Yet there is a core of good historical sense in this book. Colonial Pennsylvania's rich and varied cultures did not disintegrate into strife, and it is likely that an equable and bountiful economy was the glue that hound the parts together in stable growth and accommodation. As such, the author's own research into, and analysis of, the General Loan Office system is provocative in its suggestion of growth, promotion and fairness, and it should be heeded. And finally, her brisk, succinct synthesis of the development of Pennsylvania's political economy down the Seven Years War will be valuable to non-specialists who want a clear introduction and overview of why colonial Pennsylvania may indeed have been "the best poor man's country." Eric Nellis Department of History University of British Columbia N.E.H. Hull. Fernale Felons: Women and Serious Crime in Colonial Massachusetts. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1987.x + 171 pp. Historian and lawyer, N.E.H. Hull wrote this study of women's serious crime, 1673-1774, in order to elucidate several related themes: women's crime patterns and their experiences of the legal system, the nature and function of the Colonial legal system, and the social history of Colonial America itself. Patterns of crime, she notes, reveal the priorities and tensions within a particular society as well as the anger and frustrations of those who resort to criminal activity. The first six chapters move from a discussion of Puritan associations of crime with sin and sex, through the development of felony law, procedure, trials and verdicts and, finally, the punishment meted out to women convicted of serious crime. The seventh chapter compares twentiethcentury female homicide trends with her study of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century cases, which suggest that homicidal crimes were the most common forms of serious criminal behavior among women in the Colonial period. This is an ambitious undertaking which partly succeeds in addressing the first and second themes of women's crime patterns and experiences with the legal system, and in the delineation of how the legal system worked. Hull 126 Shorter Book Reviews is much less successful, however, in conveying the nuances of changes in Colonial society. In particular, her portrait does not really convey the changing socio-economic circumstances of the last two decades of Massachusetts history before the Revolution; the reader will be disappointed to note that the author does not pursue findings which sug,gestthat economic crime became endemic among women by the 1760s. This reviewer's own work in the records of the Superior Court of Judicature (later the Supreme Judicial Court) between 1750 and 1800 argues that rising levels of prosecution for property crime in general reveal significant tensions over the preservation of property in a rapidly-growing commercial society engaged in capital accumulation. Hull's termination point of 1774 (when the higher courts ceased to function) thus de-emphasizes the post-Revolutionary period.1 In the context of the author's chosen time-frame, serious crimes among women most often took the form of homicidal assaults on children (infanticide), on masters and on neighbours. The second largest category combines witchcraft and sexual crimes, while property crimes are the third largest category of crimes committed by women over this period. Overall, women committed ten percent of the serious crimes tried. The association of women with crimes against the person, and of men with property crimes, breaks do'WD. by the mid-eighteenth century, a phenomenon which the author attributes to "modernization" in an increasingly commercial society. This invocation of modernization theory is problematic, as many critics have noted in other contexts. In addition, the author's concentration on the topic of "serious crime" obscures the numerical importance of prosecutions for fornication which were tried in the lower courts, or before single justices of the peace, throughout the period. A case study of all prosecutions in a single jurisdiction (such as a county) would demonstrate the overwhelming importance of sexual prosecutions for women, a phenomenon which continued well into the eighteenth century. Colonial concern with sexuality reflects not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 125-128
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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