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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.

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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.

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Dark Work

The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island

Christy Clark-Pujara

Historians have written expansively about the slave economy and its vital role in early American economic life. In Dark Work, Christy Clark-Pujara tells the story of one state in particular whose role was outsized: Rhode Island. Like their northern neighbors, Rhode Islanders bought and sold slaves and supplies that sustained plantations throughout the Americas; however, nowhere else was this business so important. During the colonial period trade with West Indian planters provided Rhode Islanders with molasses, the key ingredient for their number one export: rum. More than 60 percent of all the slave ships that left North America left from Rhode Island. During the antebellum period Rhode Islanders were the leading producers of “negro cloth,” a coarse wool-cotton material made especially for enslaved blacks in the American South.
 
Clark-Pujara draws on the documents of the state, the business, organizational, and personal records of their enslavers, and the few first-hand accounts left by enslaved and free black Rhode Islanders to reconstruct their lived experiences. The business of slavery encouraged slaveholding, slowed emancipation and led to circumscribed black freedom. Enslaved and free black people pushed back against their bondage and the restrictions placed on their freedom. It is convenient, especially for northerners, to think of slavery as southern institution. The erasure or marginalization of the northern black experience and the centrality of the business of slavery to the northern economy allows for a dangerous fiction—that North has no history of racism to overcome. But we cannot afford such a delusion if we are to truly reconcile with our past.

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David Franks

Colonial Merchant

Mark Abbott Stern

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Decoding Roger Williams

The Lost Essay of Rhode Island’s Founding Father

Linford D. Fisher

Near the end of his life, Roger Williams, Rhode Island founder and father of American religious freedom, scrawled an encrypted essay in the margins of a colonial-era book. For more than 300 years those shorthand notes remained indecipherable... ...until a team of Brown University undergraduates led by Lucas Mason-Brown cracked Williams’ code after the marginalia languished for over a century in the archives of the John Carter Brown Library. At the time of Williams’ writing, a trans-Atlantic debate on infant versus believer’s baptism had taken shape that included London Baptist minister John Norcott and the famous Puritan “Apostle to the Indians,” John Eliot. Amazingly, Williams’ code contained a previously undiscovered essay, which was a point-by-point refutation of Eliot’s book supporting infant baptism. History professors Linford D. Fisher and J. Stanley Lemons immediately recognized the importance of what turned out to be theologian Roger Williams’ final treatise. Decoding Roger Williams reveals for the first time Williams’ translated and annotated essay, along with a critical essay by Fisher, Lemons, and Mason-Brown and reprints of the original Norcott and Eliot tracts.

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Deconstructing the Cherokee Nation

Town, Region, and Nation among Eighteenth-Century Cherokees

Tyler Boulware

This significant contribution to Cherokee studies examines the tribe’s life during the eighteenth century, up to the Removal. By revealing town loyalties and regional alliances, Tyler Boulware uncovers a persistent identification hierarchy among the colonial Cherokee.

Boulware aims to fill the gap in Cherokee historical studies by addressing two significant aspects of Cherokee identity: town and region. Though other factors mattered, these were arguably the most recognizable markers by which Cherokee peoples structured group identity and influenced their interactions with outside groups during the colonial era.

This volume focuses on the understudied importance of social and political ties that gradually connected villages and regions and slowly weakened the localism that dominated in earlier decades. It highlights the importance of borderland interactions to Cherokee political behavior and provides a nuanced investigation of the issue of Native American identity, bringing geographic relevance and distinctions to the topic.

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A Description of New Netherland

Adriaen van der Donck

This edition of A Description of New Netherland provides the first complete and accurate English-language translation of an essential first-hand account of the lives and world of Dutch colonists and northeastern Native communities in the seventeenth century. Adriaen van der Donck, a graduate of Leiden University in the 1640s, became the law enforcement officer for the Dutch patroonship of Rensselaerswijck, located along the upper Hudson River. His position enabled him to interact extensively with Dutch colonists and the local Algonquians and Iroquoians. An astute observer, detailed recorder, and accessible writer, Van der Donck was ideally situated to write about his experiences and the natural and cultural worlds around him.

Van der Donck’s Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant  was first published in 1655 and then expanded in 1656. An inaccurate and abbreviated English translation appeared in 1841 and was reprinted in 1968. This new volume features an accurate, polished translation by Diederik Willem Goedhuys and includes all the material from the original 1655 and 1656 editions. The result is an indispensable first-hand account with enduring value to historians, ethnohistorians, and anthropologists.

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Design in Puritan American Literature

William J. Scheick

Puritan American writers faced a dilemma: they had an obligation to use language as a celebration of divine artistry, but they could not allow their writing to become an iconic graven image of authorial self-idolatry. In this study William Scheick explores one way in which William Bradford, Nathaniel Ward, Anne Bradstreet, Urian Oakes, Edward Taylor, and Jonathan Edwards mediated these conflicting imperatives. They did so, he argues, by creating moments in their works when they and their audience could hesitate and contemplate the central paradox of language: its capacity to intimate both concealed authorial pride and latent deific design. These ambiguous occasions served Puritan writers as places where the threat of divine wrath and the promise of divine mercy intersected in unresolved tension.

By the nineteenth century the heritage of this Christlike mingling of temporal connotation and eternal denotation had mutated. A peculiar late eighteenth-century narrative by Nathan Fiske and a short story by Edward Bellamy both suggest that the binary nature of language exploited by their Puritan ancestors was still a vital authorial concern; but neither of these writers affirms the presence of an eternal denotative signification hidden within the conflicting historical contexts of their apparently allegorical language. For them, appreciation of the mystery of a divine revelation possibly concealed in words yielded to puzzlement over language itself, specifically over the inadequacy of language to signify more than its own instability of design.

This book is a tightly focused study of an important aspect of Puritan American writers' use of language by one of the leading scholars in the field of early American literature.

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