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Literacy Instruction and Acquisition in a Cultural Context
An experienced teacher of reading and writing and an award-winning historian, E. Jennifer Monaghan brings to vibrant life the process of learning to read and write in colonial America. Ranging throughout the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia, she examines the instruction of girls and boys, Native Americans and enslaved Africans, the privileged and the poor, revealing the sometimes wrenching impact of literacy acquisition on the lives of learners. For the most part, religious motives underlay reading instruction in colonial America, while secular motives led to writing instruction. Monaghan illuminates the history of these activities through a series of deeply researched and readable case studies. An Anglican missionary battles mosquitoes and loneliness to teach the New York Mohawks to write in their own tongue. Puritan fathers model scriptural reading for their children as they struggle with bereavement. Boys in writing schools, preparing for careers in counting houses, wield their quill pens in the difficult task of mastering a "good hand." Benjamin Franklin learns how to compose essays with no teacher but himself. Young orphans in Georgia write precocious letters to their benefactor, George Whitefield, while schools in South Carolina teach enslaved black children to read but never to write. As she tells these stories, Monaghan clears new pathways in the analysis of colonial literacy. She pioneers in exploring the implications of the separation of reading and writing instruction, a topic that still resonates in today's classrooms. Monaghan argues that major improvements occurred in literacy instruction and acquisition after about 1750, visible in rising rates of signature literacy. Spelling books were widely adopted as they key text for teaching young children to read; prosperity, commercialism, and a parental urge for gentility aided writing instruction, benefiting girls in particular. And a gentler vision of childhood arose, portraying children as more malleable than sinful. It promoted and even commercialized a new kind of children's book designed to amuse instead of convert, laying the groundwork for the "reading revolution" of the new republic.
Thomas Jefferson's Dualistic Enlightenment
The Limits of Optimism works to dispel persistent notions about Jefferson’s allegedly paradoxical and sphinx-like quality. Maurizio Valsania shows that Jefferson’s multifaceted character and personality are to a large extent the logical outcome of an anti-metaphysical, enlightened, and humility-oriented approach to reality. That Jefferson’s mind and priorities changed over time and in response to changing circumstances indicates neither incoherence, hypocrisy, nor pathology.
Valsania’s reading of Jefferson, the Enlightenment, and negativity helps to make sense of the many paradoxes typically associated with that eighteenth-century thinker. At the same time, it provides a corrective to the common though erroneous equation of Enlightenment thinking with rationalism and shallow optimism.
Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America
2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Although the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City symbolically mark the start of the gay rights movement, individuals came together long before the modern era to express their same-sex romantic and sexual attraction toward one another, and in a myriad of ways. Some reflected on their desires in quiet solitude, while others endured verbal, physical, and legal harassment for publicly expressing homosexual interest through words or actions.
Long Before Stonewall seeks to uncover the many iterations of same-sex desire in colonial America and the early Republic, as well as to expand the scope of how we define and recognize homosocial behavior. Thomas A. Foster has assembled a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary collection of original and classic essays that explore topics ranging from homoerotic imagery of black men to prison reform to the development of sexual orientations. This collection spans a regional and temporal breadth that stretches from the colonial Southwest to Quaker communities in New England. It also includes a challenge to commonly accepted understandings of the Native American berdache. Throughout, connections of race, class, status, and gender are emphasized, exposing the deep foundations on which modern sexual political movements and identities are built.
Crossroads of the Atlantic World
Located at the junction of North America and the Caribbean, the vast territory of colonial Louisiana provides a paradigmatic case study for an Atlantic studies approach. One of the largest North American colonies and one of the last to be founded, Louisiana was governed by a succession of sovereignties, with parts ruled at various times by France, Spain, Britain, and finally the United States. But just as these shifting imperial connections shaped the territory's culture, Louisiana's peculiar geography and history also yielded a distinctive colonization pattern that reflected a synthesis of continent and island societies.
Louisiana: Crossroads of the Atlantic World offers an exceptional collaboration among American, Canadian, and European historians who explore colonial and antebellum Louisiana's relations with the rest of the Atlantic world. Studying the legacy of each period of Louisiana history over the longue durée, the essays create a larger picture of the ways early settlements influenced Louisiana society and how the changes of sovereignty and other circulations gave rise to a multiethnic society. Contributors examine the workings of empires through the examples of slave laws, administrative careers or on-the-ground political negotiations, cultural exchanges among masters, non-slave holders, and slaves, and the construction of race through sexuality, marriage and household formation. As a whole, the volume makes the compelling argument that one cannot write Louisiana history without adopting an Atlantic perspective, or Atlantic history without referring to Louisiana.
Contributors: Guillaume Aubert, Emily Clark, Alexandre Dubé, Sylvia R. Frey, Sylvia L. Hilton, Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec, Cécile Vidal, Sophie White, Mary Williams.
Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England
In this book, R. Todd Romero traces the interaction of notions of gender, the practice of religion, and the conduct of warfare in colonial America. He shows how Native and Anglo-American ideas of manhood developed in counterpoint, in the context of Christian evangelization, colonial expansion, and recurrent armed conflict. For the English, the cultivation of manliness became an important aspect of missionary efforts. Conversion demanded that the English “make men” of the Indians before they could “make them Christians,” a process that involved reshaping Native masculinity according to English patriarchal ideals that the colonists themselves rarely matched. For their part, Native Americans held on to older ways of understanding the divine and defining gender even as they entered English “praying towns” and negotiated the steep demands of the missionaries. Evolving ideas of masculinity resonated with religious significance and shaped the meaning of warfare for Natives and colonists alike. Just as the English believed that their territorial expansion was divinely sanctioned, Indians attributed a string of victories in King Philip’s War to “the Great God” and the perception that their enemies “were like women.” Trusting that war and manliness were necessarily linked, both groups engaged in ritual preparations for battle, believed deeply in the efficacy of the supernatural to affect the outcome of combat, and comprehended the meaning of war in distinctly religious ways.
Knowledge and Identity in Early American Literatures
The conquest and colonization of the Americas resulted in all kinds of exchanges, including the transmission of diseases and the sharing of medicines to treat them. In this book, Kelly Wisecup examines how European settlers, Native Americans, and New World Africans communicated medical knowledge in early America, and how the colonists represented what they learned in their literatures. Against the prevailing view that colonial texts provide insight only into their writers’ perspectives, Wisecup demonstrates that Europeans, Natives, and Africans held certain medical ideas in common, including a conception of disease as both a spiritual and a physical entity, and a belief in the power of special rituals or prayers to restore health. As a consequence, medical knowledge and practices operated as a shared form of communication on which everyone drew in order to adapt to a world of devastating new maladies and unfamiliar cures. By signaling one’s relation to supernatural forces, to the natural world, and to other people, medicine became an effective means of communicating a variety of messages about power and identity as well as bodies and minds. Native Americans in Virginia and New England, for example, responded to the nearly simultaneous arrival of mysterious epidemics and peoples by incorporating colonists into explanations of disease, while British American colonists emphasized to their audiences back home the value of medical knowledge drawn from cross-cultural encounters in the New World.
Built primarily for public religious exercises, New England’s wood-frame meetinghouses nevertheless were closely wedded to the social and cultural fabric of the neighborhood and fulfilled multiple secular purposes for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As the only municipal building in the community, these structures provided locations for town and parish meetings. They also hosted criminal trials, public punishments and executions, and political and religious protests, and on occasion they served as defensive forts, barracks, hospitals, and places to store gunpowder. Today few of these once ubiquitous buildings survive. Based on site visits and meticulous documentary research, Meetinghouses of Early New England identifies more than 2,200 houses of worship in the region during the period from 1622 to 1830, bringing many of them to light for the first time. Within this framework Peter Benes addresses the stunning but ultimately impermanent blossoming of a New England “vernacular” tradition of ecclesiastical/ municipal architecture. He pinpoints the specific European antecedents of the seventeenth-century New England meetinghouse and traces their evolution through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries into Congregational, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches heavily influenced by an Anglican precedent that made a place of worship a “house of God.” Undertaking a parish-by-parish examination, Benes draws on primary sources—original records, diaries, and contemporary commentators—to determine which religious societies in the region advocated (or resisted) this evolution, tying key shifts in meetinghouse architecture to the region’s shifting liturgical and devotional practices.
Native American Diplomacy in the Colonial Hudson Valley
In The Memory of All Ancient Customs, Tom Arne Midtrød examines the complex patterns of diplomatic, political, and social communication among the American Indian peoples of the Hudson Valley-including the Mahicans, Wappingers, and Esopus Indians-from the early seventeenth century through the American Revolutionary era. By focusing on how members of different Native groups interacted with one another, this book places Indians rather than Europeans on center stage.
Midtrød uncovers a vast and multifaceted Native American world that was largely hidden from the eyes of the Dutch and English colonists who gradually displaced the indigenous peoples of the Hudson Valley. In The Memory of All Ancient Customs he establishes the surprising extent to which numerically small and militarily weak Indian groups continued to understand the world around them in their own terms, and as often engaged- sometimes violently, sometimes cooperatively-with neighboring peoples to the east (New England Indians) and west (the Iroquois ) as with the Dutch and English colonizers. Even as they fell more and more under the domination of powerful outsiders-Iroquois as well as Dutch and English-the Hudson Valley Indians were resilient, maintaining or adapting features of their traditional diplomatic ties until the moment of their final dispossession during the American Revolutionary War.
Jean-Marie Odin in Galveston and New Orleans
In 1822 a young French missionary priest arrived in America, where he would devote the rest of his life to the mission field on behalf of the Catholic Church. Jean-Marie Odin served first in Missouri and Arkansas, then in 1840 moved to Texas, becoming the first Bishop of Galveston in 1847. He held that office until 1861, when he became Archbishop of New Orleans.
The twenty years he served in Texas were important years in the life of the young republic-turned-state. His life and career during this period allow readers to view, in the words of this book’s foreword, “French missionaries and their collaborators treading the almost limitless Texas landscape to serve encampments of settlers and to preach the Gospel in English, French, Spanish, and German.”
His decade in New Orleans during the Civil War and Reconstruction spans a period of immense importance to America, the region, and the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, in 1870, Odin returned to Hauteville, France, and died in the same home in which he had been raised.
The role of the church in those turbulent times is revealed through the life and ministry of Jean-Marie Odin.
Death in Early America
Mortal Remains introduces new methods of analyzing death and its crucial meanings over a 240-year period, from 1620 to 1860, untangling its influence on other forms of cultural expression, from religion and politics to race relations and the nature of war. In this volume historians and literary scholars join forces to explore how, in a medically primitive and politically evolving environment, mortality became an issue that was inseparable from national self-definition.
Attempting to make sense of their suffering and loss while imagining a future of cultural permanence and spiritual value, early Americans crafted metaphors of death in particular ways that have shaped the national mythology. As the authors show, the American fascination with murder, dismembered bodies, and scenes of death, the allure of angel sightings, the rural cemetery movement, and the enshrinement of George Washington as a saintly father, constituted a distinct sensibility. Moreover, by exploring the idea of the vanishing Indian and the brutality of slavery, the authors demonstrate how a culture of violence and death had an early effect on the American collective consciousness.
Mortal Remains draws on a range of primary sources—from personal diaries and public addresses, satire and accounts of sensational crime—and makes a needed contribution to neglected aspects of cultural history. It illustrates the profound ways in which experiences with death and the imagery associated with it became enmeshed in American society, politics, and culture.