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History > U.S. History > Colonial Era

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Friends and Strangers Cover

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Friends and Strangers

The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania

By John Smolenski

In its early years, William Penn's "Peaceable Kingdom" was anything but. Pennsylvania's governing institutions were faced with daunting challenges: Native Americans proved far less docile than Penn had hoped, the colony's non-English settlers were loath to accept Quaker authority, and Friends themselves were divided by grievous factional struggles. Yet out of this chaos emerged a colony hailed by contemporary and modern observers alike as the most liberal, tolerant, and harmonious in British America.

In Friends and Strangers, John Smolenski argues that Pennsylvania's early history can best be understood through the lens of creolization—the process by which Old World habits, values, and practices were transformed in a New World setting. Unable simply to transplant English political and legal traditions across the Atlantic, Quaker leaders gradually forged a creole civic culture that secured Quaker authority in an increasingly diverse colony. By mythologizing the colony's early settlement and casting Friends as the ideal guardians of its uniquely free and peaceful society, they succeeded in establishing a shared civic culture in which Quaker dominance seemed natural and just.

The first history of Pennsylvania's founding in more than forty years, Friends and Strangers offers a provocative new look at the transfer of English culture to North America. Setting Pennsylvania in the context of the broader Atlantic phenomenon of creolization, Smolenski's account of the Quaker colony's origins reveals the vital role this process played in creating early American society.

From a Far Country Cover

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From a Far Country

Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World

Catharine Randall

In From a Far Country Catharine Randall examines Huguenots and their less-known cousins the Camisards, offering a fresh perspective on the important role these French Protestants played in settling the New World.

The Camisard religion was marked by more ecstatic expression than that of the Huguenots, not unlike differences between Pentecostals and Protestants. Both groups were persecuted and emigrated in large numbers, becoming participants in the broad circulation of ideas that characterized the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Randall vividly portrays this French Protestant diaspora through the lives of three figures: Gabriel Bernon, who led a Huguenot exodus to Massachusetts and moved among the commercial elite; Ezéchiel Carré, a Camisard who influenced Cotton Mather’s theology; and Elie Neau, a Camisard-influenced writer and escaped galley slave who established North America’s first school for blacks.

Like other French Protestants, these men were adaptable in their religious views, a quality Randall points out as quintessentially American. In anthropological terms they acted as code shifters who manipulated multiple cultures. While this malleability ensured that French Protestant culture would not survive in externally recognizable terms in the Americas, Randall shows that the culture’s impact was nonetheless considerable.

From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers Cover

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From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers

With this book, Allan Kulikoff offers a sweeping new interpretation of the origins and development of the small farm economy in Britain's mainland American colonies. Examining the lives of farmers and their families, he tells the story of immigration to the colonies, traces patterns of settlement, analyzes the growth of markets, and assesses the impact of the Revolution on small farm society.

Beginning with the dispossession of the peasantry in early modern England, Kulikoff follows the immigrants across the Atlantic to explore how they reacted to a hostile new environment and its Indian inhabitants. He discusses how colonists secured land, built farms, and bequeathed those farms to their children. Emphasizing commodity markets in early America, Kulikoff shows that without British demand for the colonists' crops, settlement could not have begun at all. Most important, he explores the destruction caused during the American Revolution, showing how the war thrust farmers into subsistence production and how they only gradually regained their prewar prosperity.

From Chicaza to Chickasaw Cover

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From Chicaza to Chickasaw

The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540-1715

Robbie Ethridge

Ethridge traces the metamorphosis of the Native South from first contact in 1540 to the dawn of the eighteenth century, when indigenous people no longer lived in a purely Indian world but rather on the edge of an expanding European empire.
Using a framework that Ethridge calls the Mississippian shatter zone to explicate these tumultuous times, From Chicaza to Chickasaw examines the European invasion and the collapse of the precontact Mississippian world and the restructuring of discrete chiefdoms into coalescent Native societies in a colonial world. The story of one group--the Chickasaws--is closely followed through this period.

From Gentlemen to Townsmen Cover

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From Gentlemen to Townsmen

The Gentry of Batimore County Maryland, 1660--1776

Charles G. Steffen

Economic and social life in the upper Chesapeake during the colonial period diverged from that in southern Maryland and Tidewater Virginia despite similar economic bases. Charles Steffen's book offers a fresh interpretation of the economic elite of Baltimore County and challenges the widely accepted view that the life of this privileged class was characterized by permanence, stability, and continuity.

The subjects of this study are not the tiny knot of Tidewater aristocrats who have dominated scholarly inquiry, but the numerically predominant but largely unknown "county gentry" who constituted the bedrock of the upper class throughout Maryland and Virginia. Because most Tidewater aristocrats shunned the northern frontier of Chesapeake society, Baltimore proves an ideal location for exploring the uncertain world of the county gentry.

Most of the men who climbed the ladder of economic and political success in Baltimore, hoping to establish dynasties, watched with dismay as their children slipped back down that ladder in the later colonial years. The absence of entrenched oligarchies gave to the upper levels of county society a striking degree of fluidity and impermanence. In chapters dealing with the plantation workforce, the landed estate, the merchant community, and the established church, Steffen demonstrates that this openness pervaded all dimensions of the life of the gentry.

Steffen's analysis of the complicated social and political realignments produced by the Revolution provides a fitting conclusion to his study, for in the independence struggle the openness of the gentry was most clearly revealed. In its vivid portrayal of the men and women who comprised the bulk of the gentry, From Gentlemen to Townsmen sheds new light on the complex economic and social life of the Chesapeake.

From Jamestown to Jefferson Cover

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From Jamestown to Jefferson

The Evolution of Religious Freedom in Virginia

Drawing on a decade of new scholarship on religion in Virginia, this collection of essays suggests how the evolving political, social, and religious conditions in the colony gradually helped create a space within which a new understanding of religious freedom, represented by Jefferson’s Statue of 1786, could emerge.

From Privileges to Rights Cover

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From Privileges to Rights

Work and Politics in Colonial New York City

By Simon Middleton

From Privileges to Rights connects the changing fortunes of tradesmen in early New York to the emergence of a conception of subjective rights that accompanied the transition to a republican and liberal order in eighteenth-century America.

Tradesmen in New Amsterdam occupied a distinct social position and, with varying levels of success, secured privileges such as a reasonable reward and the exclusion of strangers from their commerce. The struggle to maintain these privileges figured in the transition to English rule as well as Leisler's Rebellion. Using hitherto unexamined records from the New York City Mayor's Court, Simon Middleton also demonstrates that, rather than merely mastering skilled crafts in workshops, artisans participated in whatever enterprises and markets promised profits with a minimum of risk. Bakers, butchers, and carpenters competed in a bustling urban economy knit together by credit that connected their fortunes to the Atlantic trade.

In the early eighteenth century, political and legal changes diminished earlier social distinctions and the grounds for privileges, while an increasing reliance on slave labor stigmatized menial toil. When an economic and a constitutional crisis prompted the importation of radical English republican ideas, artisans were recast artisans as virtuous male property owners whose consent was essential for legitimate government. In this way, an artisanal subject emerged that provided a constituency for the development of a populist and egalitarian republican political culture in New York City.

Gallatin Cover

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Gallatin

America’s Swiss Founding Father

Nicholas Dungan, 0, 0

“With this first full-scale Gallatin biography written in nearly half a century, author Nicholas Dungan traces Gallatin’s pedigree back to 1258 AD and maps, in straightforward detail, how a Genevan aristocrat became a Greenwich Village legend.”

Gentry and Common Folk Cover

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Gentry and Common Folk

Political Culture on a Virginia Frontier 1740--1789

Albert H. Tillson Jr.

In the late eighteenth century, the Upper Valley of Virginia experienced a conflict between the elitist culture of the gentry and the more republican values of the populace. Albert Tillson addresses here several major issues in historical scholarship on Virginia and the southern backcountry, focusing on changing political values in the late colonial and Revolutionary eras.

In the colonial period, Tillson shows, the Upper Valley's deferential culture was much less pervasive than has often been suggested. Although the gentry maintained elitist values in the county courts and some other political arenas, much of the populace rejected their leadership, especially in the militia and other defense activities. Such dissent indicates the beginnings of an alternative political culture, one based on the economic realities of small-scale agriculture, the preference for less hierarchical styles of leadership, and a stronger attachment to local neighborhoods than to county, colony, or empire.

Despite the strength of this division, the Upper Valley experienced less disorder than many other areas of the southern backcountry. Tillson attributes this in part to the close ties between the elite and provincial authorities, in part to their willingness to compromise with popular dissidents. Indeed, many of the subsidiary leaders in direct contact with local neighborhoods and militia training companies came to act as intermediaries between their superiors and popular groups.

As Tillson shows, the events and ideology of the Revolutionary period interacted to transform the region's political culture. By creating tremendous demands for manpower and economic support, the war led to greater discontent and forced regional leaders to make substantial concessions to popular sentiment. The republican ideology sanctioned by the Revolution not only justified these concessions but also legitimated popular support for challenges to established leaders and institutions.

Georgia's Frontier Women Cover

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Georgia's Frontier Women

Female Fortunes in a Southern Colony

Ben Marsh

Ranging from Georgia's founding in the 1730s until the American Revolution in the 1770s, Georgia's Frontier Women explores women's changing roles amid the developing demographic, economic, and social circumstances of the colony's settling. Georgia was launched as a unique experiment on the borderlands of the British Atlantic world. Its female population was far more diverse than any in nearby colonies at comparable times in their formation. Ben Marsh tells a complex story of narrowing opportunities for Georgia's women as the colony evolved from uncertainty toward stability in the face of sporadic warfare, changes in government, land speculation, and the arrival of slaves and immigrants in growing numbers.

Marsh looks at the experiences of white, black, and Native American women-old and young, married and single, working in and out of the home. Mary Musgrove, who played a crucial role in mediating colonist-Creek relations, and Marie Camuse, a leading figure in Georgia's early silk industry, are among the figures whose life stories Marsh draws on to illustrate how some frontier women broke down economic barriers and wielded authority in exceptional ways.

Marsh also looks at how basic assumptions about courtship, marriage, and family varied over time. To early settlers, for example, the search for stability could take them across race, class, or community lines in search of a suitable partner. This would change as emerging elites enforced the regulation of traditional social norms and as white relationships with blacks and Native Americans became more exploitive and adversarial. Many of the qualities that earlier had distinguished Georgia from other southern colonies faded away.

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