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Brabbling Women

Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia

by Terri L. Snyder

Brabbling Women takes its title from a 1662 law enacted by Virginia's burgesses, which was intended to offer relief to the "poore husbands" forced into defamation suits because their "brabling" wives had slandered or scandalized their neighbors. To quell such episodes of female misrule, lawmakers decreed that husbands could choose either to pay damages or to have their wives publicly ducked.

But there was more at stake here. By examining women's use of language, Terri L. Snyder demonstrates how women resisted and challenged oppressive political, legal, and cultural practices in colonial Virginia. Contending that women's voices are heard most clearly during episodes of crisis, Snyder focuses on disorderly speech to illustrate women's complex relationships to law and authority in the seventeenth century.

Ordinary women, Snyder finds, employed a variety of strategies to prevail in domestic crises over sexual coercion and adultery, conflicts over women's status as servants or slaves, and threats to women's authority as independent household governors. Some women entered the political forum, openly participating as rebels or loyalists; others sought legal redress for their complaints. Wives protested the confines of marriage; unfree women spoke against masters and servitude. By the force of their words, all strove to thwart political leaders and local officials, as well as the power of husbands, masters, and neighbors. The tactics colonial women used, and the successes they met, reflect the struggles for empowerment taking place in defiance of the inequalities of the colonial period.

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Breaking the Bonds

Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730-1830

Merril Smith

"In Breaking The Bonds, Merril Smith establishes the ambitious goal of determining 'what kind of problems arose in troubled marriages' and of analyzing 'how men and women coped with marital discord.' . . . To accomplish this, Smith studied hundreds of divorce petitions, other legal documents, newspapers, almshouse dockets, and prescriptive literature. She concludes that, as in the present day, married couples fought and parted over sex, money, and abuse."
Pennsylvania History

"A richly textured study. . . With an eye to cross-class and cross-race representation, Smith utilizes diverse sources, including memoirs and diaries, correspondence, probate records, newspaper advertisements, depositions and petitions for divorce, and various moral reform and social regulatory organization records. . . . A brave attempt to write a description of 'the development of the Puritan concept of spirtiual growth.' . . . Gracefully written. . . provides specific new insights into a too-neglected area of early republican domestic politics."
William and Mary Quarterly

The late eighteenth century marked a period of changing expectations about marriage: companionship came to coexist as a norm alongside older patriarchal standards, men and women began to see their roles in more disparate ways, expectations about the satisfaction of marriage grew, and gender distinctions between husbands and wives became more complicated. Marital strife was an inevitable outcome of these changing expectations. The difficulties that rose, including abuse, a lack of sexual communication, and domestic violence (frequently brought on by alcholism) differ little from those with which couples struggle today.

Breaking The Bonds is an imaginative and original account that brings to light a strongly communicative world in which neighbors knew of, dinscussed, and even came to the aid of those locked in unhappy marriages.

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Brothers Born of One Mother

British-Native American Relations in the Colonial Southeast

Michelle LeMaster

The arrival of English settlers in the American Southeast in 1670 brought the British and the Native Americans into contact both with foreign peoples and with unfamiliar gender systems. In a region in which the balance of power between multiple players remained uncertain for many decades, British and Native leaders turned to concepts of gender and family to create new diplomatic norms to govern interactions as they sought to construct and maintain working relationships. In Brothers Born of One Mother, Michelle LeMaster addresses the question of how differing cultural attitudes toward gender influenced Anglo-Indian relations in the colonial Southeast.

As one of the most fundamental aspects of culture, gender had significant implications for military and diplomatic relations. Understood differently by each side, notions of kinship and proper masculine and feminine behavior wielded during negotiations had the power to either strengthen or disrupt alliances. The collision of different cultural expectations of masculine behavior and men's relationships to and responsibilities for women and children became significant areas of discussion and contention. Native American and British leaders frequently discussed issues of manhood (especially in the context of warfare), the treatment of women and children, and intermarriage. Women themselves could either enhance or upset relations through their active participation in diplomacy, war, and trade.

Leaders invoked gendered metaphors and fictive kinship relations in their discussions, and by evaluating their rhetoric, Brothers Born of One Mother investigates the intercultural conversations about gender that shaped Anglo-Indian diplomacy. LeMaster's study contributes importantly to historians’ understanding of the role of cultural differences in intergroup contact and investigates how gender became part of the ideology of European conquest in North America, providing a unique window into the process of colonization in America.

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Building Charleston

Town and Society in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World

Emma Hart

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.

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By Birth or Consent

Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority

Holly Brewer

In mid-sixteenth-century England, people were born into authority and responsibility based on their social status. Thus elite children could designate property or serve in Parliament, while children of the poorer sort might be forced to sign labor contracts or be hanged for arson or picking pockets. By the late eighteenth century, however, English and American law began to emphasize contractual relations based on informed consent rather than on birth status. In By Birth or Consent, Holly Brewer explores how the changing legal status of children illuminates the struggle over consent and status in England and America. As it emerged through religious, political, and legal debates, the concept of meaningful consent challenged the older order of birthright and became central to the development of democratic political theory.

The struggle over meaningful consent had tremendous political and social consequences, affecting the whole order of society. It granted new powers to fathers and guardians at the same time that it challenged those of masters and kings. Brewer's analysis reshapes the debate about the origins of modern political ideology and makes connections between Reformation religious debates, Enlightenment philosophy, and democratic political theory.



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Captain John Smith

A Select Edition of His Writings

Karen Ordahl Kupperman

Captain John Smith was one of the most insightful and colorful writers to visit America in the colonial period. While his first venture was in Virginia, some of his most important work concerned New England and the colonial enterprise as a whole.

The publication in 1986 of Philip Barbour's three-volume edition of Smith's works made available the complete Smith opus. In Karen Ordahl Kupperman's new edition her intelligent and imaginative selection and thematic arrangement of Smith's most important writings will make Smith accessible to scholars, students, and general readers alike. Kupperman's introductory material and notes clarify Smith's meaning and the context in which he wrote, while the selections are large enough to allow Captain Smith to speak for himself. As a reasonably priced distillation of the best of John Smith, Kupperman's edition will allow a wide audience to discover what a remarkable thinker and writer he was.

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Captives and Cousins

Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

James F. Brooks

This sweeping, richly evocative study examines the origins and legacies of a flourishing captive exchange economy within and among native American and Euramerican communities throughout the Southwest Borderlands from the Spanish colonial era to the end of the nineteenth century.

Indigenous and colonial traditions of capture, servitude, and kinship met and meshed in the borderlands, forming a "slave system" in which victims symbolized social wealth, performed services for their masters, and produced material goods under the threat of violence. Slave and livestock raiding and trading among Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, Navajos, Utes, and Spaniards provided labor resources, redistributed wealth, and fostered kin connections that integrated disparate and antagonistic groups even as these practices renewed cycles of violence and warfare.

Always attentive to the corrosive effects of the "slave trade" on Indian and colonial societies, the book also explores slavery's centrality in intercultural trade, alliances, and "communities of interest" among groups often antagonistic to Spanish, Mexican, and American modernizing strategies. The extension of the moral and military campaigns of the American Civil War to the Southwest in a regional "war against slavery" brought differing forms of social stability but cost local communities much of their economic vitality and cultural flexibility.

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Carolina in Crisis

Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756-1763

Daniel J. Tortora

In this engaging history, Daniel J. Tortora explores how the Anglo-Cherokee War reshaped the political and cultural landscape of the colonial South. Tortora chronicles the series of clashes that erupted from 1758 to 1761 between Cherokees, settlers, and British troops. The conflict, no insignificant sideshow to the French and Indian War, eventually led to the regeneration of a British-Cherokee alliance. Tortora reveals how the war destabilized the South Carolina colony and threatened the white coastal elite, arguing that the political and military success of the Cherokees led colonists to a greater fear of slave resistance and revolt and ultimately nurtured South Carolinians' rising interest in the movement for independence.

Drawing on newspaper accounts, military and diplomatic correspondence, and the speeches of Cherokee people, among other sources, this work reexamines the experiences of Cherokees, whites, and African Americans in the mid-eighteenth century. Centering his analysis on Native American history, Tortora reconsiders the rise of revolutionary sentiments in the South while also detailing the Anglo-Cherokee War from the Cherokee perspective.

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The Case of the Piglet’s Paternity

Trials from the New Haven Colony, 1639–1663

Jon C. Blue

In the middle of the seventeenth century, judges in the short-lived New Haven Colony presided over a remarkable series of trials ranging from murder and bestiality, to drunken sailors, frisky couples, faulty shoes, and shipwrecks. The cases were reported in an unusually vivid manner, allowing readers to witness the twists and turns of fortune as the participants battled with life and liberty at stake. When the records were eventually published in the 1850s, they were both difficult to read and heavily edited to delete sexual matters. Rendered here in modernized English and with insightful commentary by eminent Judge Jon C. Blue, the New Haven trials allow readers to immerse themselves in the exciting legal battles of America’s earliest days.

The Case of the Piglet’s Paternity assembles thirty-three of the most significant and intriguing trials of the period. As a book that examines a distinctive judicial system from a modern legal perspective, it is sure to be of interest to readers in law and legal history. For less litigious readers, Blue offers a worm’s eye view of the full spectrum of early colonial society—political leaders and religious dissidents, farmhands and apprentices, women and children.

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Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis

Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850

Steven W. Hackel

Recovering lost voices and exploring issues intimate and institutional, this sweeping examination of Spanish California illuminates Indian struggles against a confining colonial order and amidst harrowing depopulation. To capture the enormous challenges Indians confronted, Steven W. Hackel integrates textual and quantitative sources and weaves together analyses of disease and depopulation, marriage and sexuality, crime and punishment, and religious, economic, and political change.

As colonization reduced their numbers and remade California, Indians congregated in missions, where they forged communities under Franciscan oversight. Yet missions proved disastrously unhealthful and coercive, as Franciscans sought control over Indians' beliefs and instituted unfamiliar systems of labor and punishment. Even so, remnants of Indian groups still survived when Mexican officials ended Franciscan rule in the 1830s. Many regained land and found strength in ancestral cultures that predated the Spaniards' arrival.

At this study's heart are the dynamic interactions in and around Mission San Carlos Borromeo between Monterey region Indians (the Children of Coyote) and Spanish missionaries, soldiers, and settlers. Hackel places these local developments in the context of the California mission system and draws comparisons between California and other areas of the Spanish Borderlands and colonial America. Concentrating on the experiences of the Costanoan and Esselen peoples during the colonial period, Children of Coyote concludes with an epilogue that carries the story of their survival to the present day.

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