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Building Charleston

Town and Society in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World

Emma Hart

Publication Year: 2010

In the colonial era, Charleston, South Carolina, was the largest city in the American South. From 1700 to 1775 its growth rate was exceeded in the New World only by that of Philadelphia. The first comprehensive study of this crucial colonial center, Building Charleston charts the rise of one of early America's great cities, revealing its importance to the evolution of both South Carolina and the British Atlantic world during the eighteenth century.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Title of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Writing this book has taken rather a long time, and over the years I have accumulated many debts. Th e manuscript began life as a PhD dissertation at the Johns Hopkins University under the exemplary supervision of Jack P. Greene. Jack’s enthusiasm for my topic, frustration with my poor grammar, and demands to know “what the point” of my work was, resulted in a thesis ...

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pp. 1-15

Towns, wrote Fernand Braudel, “are like electric transformers. They increase tension, accelerate the rhythm of exchange and constantly recharge human life.”1 With their extraordinary concentration of people, their shared closed spaces that force inhabitants of different colors, classes, and nationalities to collide with one another, and their plethora of commercial and cultural possibilities, cities have often made a special contribution to the character of societies. ...

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Chapter 1: “To Plant in Towns”: Charles Towne at the Founding of Carolina

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pp. 17-37

The narrative of Carolina’s early colonization is a familiar one in the context of England’s New World settlements. Although the colony took an unusually long time to achieve stability, the events, people, and processes behind its founding followed the usual trajectory of the Old World’s move westward to the “empty” lands of America. Profit slowly ...

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Chapter 2: “A Floating Market”: Commercial Growth, Urban Growth

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pp. 38-64

Preoccupied with his relatively new roles as monarch and as Englishman, it is unlikely that the day in 1729 when George II formally became South Carolina’s chief ruler went down in the sovereign’s diary as a noteworthy highlight of his week. More than most colonies, Carolina was a developing territory that appeared to justify the Crown’s policy of “salutary neglect.” ...

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Chapter 3: “Stupendous Works”: Building Urban Dynamism into the Low Country

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pp. 65-97

Between 1730 and 1780, with Charleston emerging as the Low Country’s commercial entrepôt, the demand for both urban homes and business premises increased. A successful agricultural economy and a thriving urban marketplace were making Charleston into an attractive destination for New World immigrants, and these many arrivals needed housing. Th e town’s fast growth proved so remarkable that, reporting on the state of ...

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Chapter 4: Urban Households, Economic Opportunity, and Social Structure

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pp. 98-129

In 1770 John Wyatt, an English house carpenter, disembarked at Charleston after the long journey from the Old World to the New. Despite his unfamiliar surroundings, and an apparent lack of family or friends, he quickly established himself on the urban scene. Marrying the daughter of a successful town blacksmith, he inherited a plantation and a number of slaves, but sold the rural land and put his slaves to work in his shop. Like the other ...

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Chapter 5: Criminal Pleasures and Charitable Deeds: Town and Culture

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pp. 130-155

Intertwined with Charleston’s rise as a city was the arrival on American shores of new cultural trends that profoundly changed the style of life in the colonies. Across colonial America elites set about acquiring the British manufactures and locally- made goods and services required for the enjoyment of a genteel lifestyle. Selecting wares from the influx of British goods—books on conduct, issues of The Spectator, tea, fabric, and ...

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Chapter 6: “A Very Essential Service to this Community”: The Politics of the Town

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pp. 156-184

When South Carolina Gazette printer and Charlestonian Peter Timothy declared to Benjamin Franklin in 1767 that the “public works” were “carrying on with spirit” in his home town, both of these correspondents would most likely have recognized the importance of this assertion to the image of South Carolina. Timothy was recounting Charlestonians’ activities not just as an interesting footnote, but was ...

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pp. 185-202

When the amateur poet Captain Martin wrote about the Charleston that he had encountered during his visit to South Carolina, he seemed to capture perfectly the position that the town had carved out for itself between 1740 and the Revolution. Martin saw “Black and white all mix’d together” and “Houses built on barren land.” He had also encountered “Pleasant walks . . . scandalous tongues, if any mind ’em,” and “Many a ...

Tabular Appendix

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pp. 203-207


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pp. 209-247


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pp. 249-267


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pp. 269-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780813928692
E-ISBN-10: 0813928699
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928678
Print-ISBN-10: 0813928672

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 4 b&w illus., 3 maps, 1 graph, 9 tables
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 755624546
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Building Charleston

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City planning -- South Carolina -- Charleston -- History.
  • Charleston (S.C.) -- Economic conditions.
  • Charleston (S.C.) -- Social conditions.
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