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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.
A Section from the Anonymous ‘Account Book, 1711-1729’ [in Dutch] Philip John Schuyler Papers (Volume 11)
This work consists of a translated and annotated edition of an account book of the trade between a colonist of Dutch origins and approximately two hundred Munsee Indians in Ulster County, NY, from 1712 to 1732. The manuscript, originally written in Dutch, represents the only extant overview of the nature and characteristics of intercultural economic exchanges between colonists and natives along the mid-Hudson Valley. The bulk of the recorded accounts show entries from between 1717 and 1729, and around one hundred indigenous customers appear with their names listed. The editors have also included a detailed introduction and an appendix of Munsee profiles.
Gender and Colonial Encounters Among the Delaware Indians
A Nation of Women chronicles changing ideas of gender and identity among the Delaware Indians from the mid-seventeenth through the eighteenth century, as they encountered various waves of migrating peoples in their homelands along the eastern coast of North America.
In Delaware society at the beginning of this period, to be a woman meant to engage in the activities performed by women, including diplomacy, rather than to be defined by biological sex. Among the Delaware, being a "woman" was therefore a self-identification, employed by both women and men, that reflected the complementary roles of both sexes within Delaware society. For these reasons, the Delaware were known among Europeans and other Native American groups as "a nation of women."
Decades of interaction with these other cultures gradually eroded the positive connotations of being a nation of women as well as the importance of actual women in Delaware society. In Anglo-Indian politics, being depicted as a woman suggested weakness and evil. Exposed to such thinking, Delaware men struggled successfully to assume the formal speaking roles and political authority that women once held. To salvage some sense of gender complementarity in Delaware society, men and women redrew the lines of their duties more rigidly. As the era came to a close, even as some Delaware engaged in a renewal of Delaware identity as a masculine nation, others rejected involvement in Christian networks that threatened to disturb the already precarious gender balance in their social relations.
Drawing on all available European accounts, including those in Swedish, German, and English, Fur establishes the centrality of gender in Delaware life and, in doing so, argues for a new understanding of how different notions of gender influenced all interactions in colonial North America.
Indian Performance, 1603-1832
Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent
In The Native Ground, Kathleen DuVal argues that it was Indians rather than European would-be colonizers who were more often able to determine the form and content of the relations between the two groups. Along the banks of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, far from Paris, Madrid, and London, European colonialism met neither accommodation nor resistance but incorporation. Rather than being colonized, Indians drew European empires into local patterns of land and resource allocation, sustenance, goods exchange, gender relations, diplomacy, and warfare. Placing Indians at the center of the story, DuVal shows both their diversity and our contemporary tendency to exaggerate the influence of Europeans in places far from their centers of power. Europeans were often more dependent on Indians than Indians were on them.
Now the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado, this native ground was originally populated by indigenous peoples, became part of the French and Spanish empires, and in 1803 was bought by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Drawing on archaeology and oral history, as well as documents in English, French, and Spanish, DuVal chronicles the successive migrations of Indians and Europeans to the area from precolonial times through the 1820s. These myriad native groups—Mississippians, Quapaws, Osages, Chickasaws, Caddos, and Cherokees—and the waves of Europeans all competed with one another for control of the region.
Only in the nineteenth century did outsiders initiate a future in which one people would claim exclusive ownership of the mid-continent. After the War of 1812, these settlers came in numbers large enough to overwhelm the region's inhabitants and reject the early patterns of cross-cultural interdependence. As citizens of the United States, they persuaded the federal government to muster its resources on behalf of their dreams of landholding and citizenship.
With keen insight and broad vision, Kathleen DuVal retells the story of Indian and European contact in a more complex and, ultimately, more satisfactory way.
Jews and Puritans in Early America
The New England Puritans’ fascination with the legacy of the Jewish religion has been well documented, but their interactions with actual Jews have escaped sustained historical attention. New Israel/New England tells the story of the Sephardic merchants who traded and sojourned in Boston and Newport between the mid-seventeenth century and the era of the American Revolution. It also explores the complex and often contradictory meanings that the Puritans attached to Judaism and the fraught attitudes that they bore toward the Jews as a people. More often than not, Michael Hoberman shows, Puritans thought and wrote about Jews in order to resolve their own theological and cultural dilemmas. A number of prominent New Englanders, including Roger Williams, Increase Mather, Samuel Sewall, Benjamin Colman, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and Ezra Stiles, wrote extensively about post-biblical Jews, in some cases drawing on their own personal acquaintance with Jewish contemporaries. Among the intriguing episodes that Hoberman investigates is the recruitment and conversion of Harvard’s first permanent instructor of Hebrew, the Jewish-born Judah Monis. Later chapters describe the ecumenical friendship between Newport minister Ezra Stiles and Haim Carigal, an itinerant rabbi from Palestine, as well as the life and career of Moses Michael Hays, the prominent freemason who was Boston’s first permanently established Jewish businessman, a founder of its insurance industry, an early sponsor of the Bank of Massachusetts, and a personal friend of Paul Revere.