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History > U.S. History > Colonial Era

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A Colony Sprung from Hell Cover

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A Colony Sprung from Hell

Pittsburgh and the Struggle for Authority on the Western Pennsylvania Frontier, 1744-1794

The early settlement of the region around Pittsburgh was characterized by a messy collision of personal, provincial, national, and imperial interests. Driven by the efforts of Europeans, Pennsylvanians, Virginians, and Indians, almost everyone attempted to manipulate the clouded political jurisdiction of the region. A Colony Sprung from Hell traces this complex struggle. The events and episodes that make up the story highlight the difficulties of creating and consolidating authority along the frontier, where the local population’s acceptance or denial of authority determined the extent to which any government could impose its will. Ultimately, what was at stake was the nature of authority itself.

Author Daniel P. Barr demonstrates that deep divisions marked efforts to exercise power over the western Pennsylvania frontier and limited the effectiveness of such attempts. They developed roughly along provincial lines, owing to a fierce competition between Pennsylvania and Virginia to incorporate the region into their colonies. This jurisdictional dispute permeated many social and political levels, impacting all those who sought power and influence along the western Pennsylvania frontier. Individuals, businesses, provincial governments, and British policymakers competed for jurisdiction in the political and legal arenas, while migrants, settlers, and Indians opposed one another on the ground in a contest that was far more confrontational and violent. Although the participants and the nature of the conflict changed over time, the fundamental question—who was going to make the important decisions regarding the region—remained unsettled and unanswered, resulting in a consistent pattern of discord and contention.

A Colony Sprung from Hell is an important contribution to the understanding of power and authority along the late colonial frontier.

Commerce by a Frozen Sea Cover

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Commerce by a Frozen Sea

Native Americans and the European Fur Trade

By Ann M. Carlos and Frank D. Lewis

Commerce by a Frozen Sea is a cross-cultural study of a century of contact between North American native peoples and Europeans. During the eighteenth century, the natives of the Hudson Bay lowlands and their European trading partners were brought together by an increasingly popular trade in furs, destined for the hat and fur markets of Europe. Native Americans were the sole trappers of furs, which they traded to English and French merchants. The trade gave Native Americans access to new European technologies that were integrated into Indian lifeways. What emerges from this detailed exploration is a story of two equal partners involved in a mutually beneficial trade.

Drawing on more than seventy years of trade records from the archives of the Hudson's Bay Company, economic historians Ann M. Carlos and Frank D. Lewis critique and confront many of the myths commonly held about the nature and impact of commercial trade. Extensively documented are the ways in which natives transformed the trading environment and determined the range of goods offered to them. Natives were effective bargainers who demanded practical items such as firearms, kettles, and blankets as well as luxuries like cloth, jewelry, and tobacco—goods similar to those purchased by Europeans. Surprisingly little alcohol was traded. Indeed, Commerce by a Frozen Sea shows that natives were industrious people who achieved a standard of living above that of most workers in Europe. Although they later fell behind, the eighteenth century was, for Native Americans, a golden age.

The Contagious City Cover

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The Contagious City

The Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia

by Simon Finger

By the time William Penn was planning the colony that would come to be called Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia at its heart, Europeans on both sides of the ocean had long experience with the hazards of city life, disease the most terrifying among them. Drawing from those experiences, colonists hoped to create new urban forms that combined the commercial advantages of a seaport with the health benefits of the country. The Contagious City details how early Americans struggled to preserve their collective health against both the strange new perils of the colonial environment and the familiar dangers of the traditional city, through a period of profound transformation in both politics and medicine.

Philadelphia was the paramount example of this reforming tendency. Tracing the city's history from its founding on the banks of the Delaware River in 1682 to the yellow fever outbreak of 1793, Simon Finger emphasizes the importance of public health and population control in decisions made by the city's planners and leaders. He also shows that key figures in the city's history, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, brought their keen interest in science and medicine into the political sphere. Throughout his account, Finger makes clear that medicine and politics were inextricably linked, and that both undergirded the debates over such crucial concerns as the city's location, its urban plan, its immigration policy, and its creation of institutions of public safety. In framing the history of Philadelphia through the imperatives of public health, The Contagious City offers a bold new vision of the urban history of colonial America.

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Contesting Slavery

The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation

The fifteen original essays in this collection examine the politics of slavery and antislavery in the traditionally overlooked period between the 1770s and the 1840s, challenging the standard narrative in which slavery played a peripheral role in regional and national politics.

Creating the British Atlantic Cover

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Creating the British Atlantic

Essays on Transplantation, Adaptation, and Continuity

Jack P. Greene

Set mostly within an expansive British imperial and transatlantic framework, this new selection of writings from the renowned historian Jack P. Greene draws on themes he has been developing throughout his distinguished career. In these essays Greene explores the efforts to impose Old World institutions, identities, and values upon the New World societies being created during the colonization process. He shows how transplanted Old World components—political, legal, and social—were adapted to meet the demands of new, economically viable, expansive cultural hearths. Greene argues that these transplantations and adaptations were of fundamental importance in the formation and evolution of the new American republic and the society it represented.

The scope of this work allows Greene to consider in depth numerous subjects, including the dynamics of colonization, the development and character of provincial identities, the relationship between new settler societies in America and the emerging British Empire, and the role of cultural power in social and political formation.

Crossing the Sound Cover

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Crossing the Sound

The Rise of Atlantic American Communities in Seventeenth-Century Eastern Long Island

Faren Siminoff

In seventeenth-century North America, communities on eastern Long Island were an integral part of the tumultuous and dynamic New England region and the larger Atlantic American world. They were created and modified by ideas and traditions that were inherent to life in Atlantic America and were not simply imported from Europe or established solely by settlers and imposed on native peoples.

In Crossing the Sound Faren R. Siminoff skillfully weaves new data with sophisticated theoretical analysis to demonstrate that the development of eastern Long Island was based more on complex interactions between settlers and native peoples than on clashes between the two groups. English and Dutch colonists did not merely transport traditional systems of land ownership, political organizations, and control of economic resources to the Northeast. Rather, both settlers and natives underwent a process of negotiation, resulting in a hybrid society that adapted and reworked new and old patterns of life, highlighting the lasting influence of native communities on the emerging American identity.

This compelling case study adds new layers to the history of the Atlantic world: it becomes a story without a dominant voice or community at its core, demonstrating that neither monolithic groups nor static interests prevailed in the region. Crossing the Sound offers a fresh interpretation of colonial relationships tracing social, cultural, and political exchanges between groups.

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Cultivating a Past

Essays on the History of Hadley, Massachusetts

edited by Marla R. Miller

In 1659, a group of Puritan dissenters made their way north from Hartford and Wethersfield, Connecticut, to a crook in the Connecticut River that cut through some of the most fertile land in New England. Three hundred and fifty years later, a group of distinguished scholars mark the founding of that town— Hadley, Massachusetts—with a book that explores a history as rich as that soil. Edited with an introduction by Marla R. Miller, Cultivating a Past brings together fifteen essays, some previously published and others new, that tell the story of Hadley from a variety of disciplinary vantage points. Archaeologists Elizabeth Chilton, Siobhan Hart, Christopher Donta, Edward Hood, and Rita Reinke investigate relations between Native and European communities, while historians Gregory Nobles, Alice Nash, and Pulitzer Prize winner Laurel Thatcher Ulrich explore the social, cultural, and political past of this New England town. Musicologist Andrea Olmstead surveys the career of composer Roger Sessions, costume specialist Lynne Bassett interprets the wardrobes of the town’s seventeenth-century residents, Douglas Wilson investigates the connection between Hadley and the regicides William Goffe and Edward Whalley, and Martin Antonetti charts the course of a 1599 Bible alleged to have belonged Goffe. Taken together, the essays capture how men and women in this small community responded to the same challenges that have faced other New Englanders from the seventeenth century to the present. They also reveal how the town’s historical sense of itself evolved along the way, as stories of the alleged “Angel of Hadley,” of favorite sons Joseph Hooker and Clarence Hawkes, and of daughters Mary Webster and Elizabeth Porter Phelps contributed to a civic identity that celebrates strength of character.

The Culture and Commerce of the Early American Novel Cover

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The Culture and Commerce of the Early American Novel

Reading the Atlantic World-System

Stephen Shapiro

Taking his cue from Philadelphia-born novelist Charles Brockden Brown’s Annals of Europe and America, which contends that America is shaped most noticeably by the international struggle between Great Britain and France for control of the world trade market, Stephen Shapiro charts the advent, decline, and reinvigoration of the early American novel. That the American novel “sprang so unexpectedly into published existence during the 1790s” may be a reflection of the beginning of the end of Franco-British supremacy and of the power of a middle class riding the crest of a new world economic system. Shapiro’s world-systems approach is a relatively new methodology for literary studies, but it brings two particularly useful features to the table. First, it refines the conceptual frameworks for analyzing cultural and social history, such as the rise in sentimentalism, in relation to a long-wave economic history of global commerce; second, it fosters a new model for a comparative American studies across time. Rather than relying on contiguous time, a world-systems approach might compare the cultural production of one region to another at the same location within the recurring cycle in an economic reconfiguration. Shapiro offers a way of thinking about the causes for the emergence of the American novel that suggests a fresh approach to the paradigms shaping American studies.

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Dangerous Economies

Status and Commerce in Imperial New York

By Serena R. Zabin

Before the American Revolution, the people who lived in British North America were not just colonists; they were also imperial subjects. To think of eighteenth-century New Yorkers as Britons rather than incipient Americans allows us fresh investigations into their world. How was the British Empire experienced by those who lived at its margins? How did the mundane affairs of ordinary New Yorkers affect the culture at the center of an enormous commercial empire?

Dangerous Economies is a history of New York culture and commerce in the first two thirds of the eighteenth century, when Britain was just beginning to catch up with its imperial rivals, France and Spain. In that sparsely populated city on the fringe of an empire, enslaved Africans rubbed elbows with white indentured servants while the elite strove to maintain ties with European genteel culture. The transience of the city's people, goods, and fortunes created a notably fluid society in which establishing one's own status or verifying another's was a challenge. New York's shifting imperial identity created new avenues for success but also made success harder to define and demonstrate socially.

Such a mobile urban milieu was the ideal breeding ground for crime and conspiracy, which became all too evident in 1741, when thirty slaves were executed and more than seventy other people were deported after being found guilty—on dubious evidence—of plotting a revolt. This sort of violent outburst was the unforeseen but unsurprising result of the seething culture that existed at the margins of the British Empire.

David Franks Cover

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David Franks

Colonial Merchant

Mark Abbott Stern

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