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History > U.S. History > Colonial Era

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Kentucke's Frontiers Cover

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Kentucke's Frontiers

Craig Thompson Friend

American culture has long celebrated the heroism framed by Kentucky's frontier wars. Spanning the period from the 1720s when Ohio River valley Indians returned to their homeland to the American defeat of the British and their Indian allies in the War of 1812, Kentucke's Frontiers examines the political, military, religious, and public memory narratives of early Kentucky. Craig Thompson Friend explains how frontier terror framed that heroism, undermining the egalitarian promise of Kentucke and transforming a trans-Appalachian region into an Old South state. From county courts and the state legislature to church tribunals and village stores, patriarchy triumphed over racial and gendered equality, creating political and economic opportunity for white men by denying it for all others. Even in remembering their frontier past, Kentuckians abandoned the egalitarianism of frontier life and elevated white males to privileged places in Kentucky history and memory.

Laboring Women Cover

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Laboring Women

Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery

By Jennifer L. Morgan

When black women were brought from Africa to the New World as slave laborers, their value was determined by their ability to work as well as their potential to bear children, who by law would become the enslaved property of the mother's master. In Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery, Jennifer L. Morgan examines for the first time how African women's labor in both senses became intertwined in the English colonies. Beginning with the ideological foundations of racial slavery in early modern Europe, Laboring Women traverses the Atlantic, exploring the social and cultural lives of women in West Africa, slaveowners' expectations for reproductive labor, and women's lives as workers and mothers under colonial slavery.

Challenging conventional wisdom, Morgan reveals how expectations regarding gender and reproduction were central to racial ideologies, the organization of slave labor, and the nature of slave community and resistance. Taking into consideration the heritage of Africans prior to enslavement and the cultural logic of values and practices recreated under the duress of slavery, she examines how women's gender identity was defined by their shared experiences as agricultural laborers and mothers, and shows how, given these distinctions, their situation differed considerably from that of enslaved men. Telling her story through the arc of African women's actual lives--from West Africa, to the experience of the Middle Passage, to life on the plantations--she offers a thoughtful look at the ways women's reproductive experience shaped their roles in communities and helped them resist some of the more egregious effects of slave life.

Presenting a highly original, theoretically grounded view of reproduction and labor as the twin pillars of female exploitation in slavery, Laboring Women is a distinctive contribution to the literature of slavery and the history of women.

Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America Cover

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Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America

Literacy Instruction and Acquisition in a Cultural Context

E Jennifer Monaghan

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.

Legacy of Fort William Henry Cover

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Legacy of Fort William Henry

Resurrecting the Past

David R. Starbuck

Fort William Henry, America’s early frontier fort at the southern end of Lake George, New York, was a flashpoint for conflict between the British and French empires in America. The fort is perhaps best known as the site of a massacre of British soldiers by Native Americans allied with the French that took place in 1757. Over the past decade, new and exciting archeological findings, in tandem with modern forensic methods, have changed our view of life at the fort prior to the massacre, by providing physical evidence of the role that Native Americans played on both sides of the conflict.

Intertwining recent revelations with those of the past, Starbuck creates a lively narrative beginning with the earliest Native American settlement on Lake George. He pays special attention to the fort itself: its reconstruction in the 1950s, the major discoveries of the 1990s, and the archeological disclosures of the past few years. He further discusses the importance of forensic anthropology in uncovering the secrets of the past, reviews key artifacts discovered at the fort, and considers the relevance of Fort William Henry and its history in the twenty-first century. Three appendixes treat exhibits since the 1950s; foodways; and General Daniel Webb’s surrender letter of August 17, 1757.

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The Limits of Optimism

Thomas Jefferson's Dualistic Enlightenment

Maurizio Valsania

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.

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Long Before Stonewall

Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America

Thomas A. Foster

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.

Louisiana Cover

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Louisiana

Crossroads of the Atlantic World

Edited by Cecile Vidal

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.

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Love in the Time of Revolution

Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change, 1793-1818

Andrew Cayton

In 1798, English essayist and novelist William Godwin ignited a transatlantic scandal with Memoirs of the Author of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." Most controversial were the details of the romantic liaisons of Godwin's wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, with both American Gilbert Imlay and Godwin himself.Wollstonecraft's life and writings became central to a continuing discussion about love's place in human society. Literary radicals argued that the cultivation of intense friendship could lead to the renovation of social and political institutions, whereas others maintained that these freethinkers were indulging their own desires with a disregard for stability and higher authority. Through correspondence and novels, Andrew Cayton finds an ideal lens to view authors, characters, and readers all debating love's power to alter men and women in the world around them.

Making War and Minting Christians Cover

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Making War and Minting Christians

Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England

R. Todd Romero

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.

Medical Encounters Cover

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Medical Encounters

Knowledge and Identity in Early American Literatures

Kelly Wisecup

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.

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