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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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"Good News from New England" by Edward Winslow

A Scholarly Edition

Kelly Wisecup

First published in 1624, Edward Winslow’s Good News from New England chronicles the early experience of the Plimoth colonists, or Pilgrims, in the New World. For several years Winslow acted as the Pilgrims’ primary negotiator with New England Algonquians, including the Wampanoag, Massachusett, and Narragansett Indians. During this period he was credited with having cured the Wampanoag sachem Massasoit, one of the colonists’ most valuable allies, of an apparently life-threatening illness, and he also served as the Pilgrims’ chief agent in England. It was in the context of all of these roles that Winslow wrote Good News in an attempt to convince supporters in England that the colonists had established friendly relations with Native groups and, as a result, gained access to trade goods. Although clearly a work of diplomacy, masking as it did incidents of brutal violence against Indians as well as evidence of mutual mistrust, the work nevertheless offers, according to Kelly Wisecup, a more complicated and nuanced representation of the Pilgrims’ first years in New England and of their relationship with Native Americans than other primary documents of the period. In this scholarly edition, Wisecup supplements Good News with an introduction, additional primary texts, and annotations to bring to light multiple perspectives, including those of the first European travelers to the area, Native captives who traveled to London and shaped Algonquian responses to colonists, the survivors of epidemics that struck New England between 1616 and 1619, and the witnesses of the colonists’ attack on the Massachusetts.

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Governed by a Spirit of Opposition

The Origins of American Political Practice in Colonial Philadelphia

Jessica Choppin Roney

During the colonial era, ordinary Philadelphians played an unusually active role in political life. Because the city lacked a strong central government, private individuals working in civic associations of their own making shouldered broad responsibility for education, poverty relief, church governance, fire protection, and even taxation and military defense. These organizations dramatically expanded the opportunities for white men—rich and poor alike—to shape policies that immediately affected their communities and their own lives. In Governed by a Spirit of Opposition, Jessica Choppin Roney explains how allowing people from all walks of life to participate in political activities amplified citizen access and democratic governance. Merchants, shopkeepers, carpenters, brewers, shoemakers, and silversmiths served as churchwardens, street commissioners, constables, and Overseers of the Poor. They volunteered to fight fires, organized relief for the needy, contributed money toward the care of the sick, took up arms in defense of the community, raised capital for local lending, and even interjected themselves in Indian diplomacy. Ultimately, Roney suggests, popular participation in charity, schools, the militia, and informal banks empowered people in this critically important colonial city to overthrow the existing government in 1776 and re-envision the parameters of democratic participation. Governed by a Spirit of Opposition argues that the American Revolution did not occasion the birth of commonplace political activity or of an American culture of voluntary association. Rather, the Revolution built upon a long history of civic engagement and a complicated relationship between the practice of majority-rule and exclusionary policy-making on the part of appointed and self-selected constituencies.

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The Great Awakening

Documents on the Revival of Religion, 1740-1745

Richard L. Bushman

Most twentieth-century Americans fail to appreciate the power of Christian conversion that characterized the eighteenth-century revivals, especially the Great Awakening of the 1740s. The common disdain in this secular age for impassioned religious emotion and language is merely symptomatic of the shift in values that has shunted revivals to the sidelines.

The very magnitude of the previous revivals is one indication of their importance. Between 1740 and 1745 literally thousands were converted. From New England to the southern colonies, people of all ages and all ranks of society underwent the New Birth. Virtually every New England congregation was touched. It is safe to say that most of the colonists in the 1740s, if not converted themselves, knew someone who was, or at least heard revival preaching.

The Awakening was a critical event in the intellectual and ecclesiastical life of the colonies. The colonists' view of the world placed much importance on conversion. Particularly, Calvinist theology viewed the bestowal of divine grace as the most crucial occurrence in human life. Besides assuring admission to God's presence in the hereafter, divine grace prepared a person for a fullness of life on earth. In the 1740s the colonists, in overwhelming numbers, laid claim to the divine power which their theology offered them. Many experienced the moral transformatoin as promised. In the Awakening the clergy's pleas of half a century came to dramatic fulfillment.

Not everyone agreed that God was working in the Awakening. Many believed preachers to be demagogues, stirring up animal spirits. The revival was looked on as an emotional orgy that needlessly disturbed the churches and frustrated the true work of God. But from 1740 to 1745 no other subject received more attention in books and pamphlets.

Through the stirring rhetoric of the sermons, theological treatises, and correspondence presented in this collection, readers can vicariously participate in the ecstasy as well as in the rage generated by America's first national revival.

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Harlots, Hussies, and Poor Unfortunate Women

Crime, Transportation, and the Servitude of Female Convicts, 1718-1783

In Harlots, Hussies, and Poor Unfortunate Women, Edith M. Ziegler recounts the history of British convict women involuntarily transported to Maryland in the eighteenth century.

Great Britain’s forced transportation of convicts to colonial Australia is well known. Less widely known is Britain’s earlier program of sending convicts—including women—to North America. Many of these women were assigned as servants in Maryland. Titled using epithets that their colonial masters applied to the convicts, Edith M. Ziegler’s Harlots, Hussies and Poor Unfortunate Women examines the lives of this intriguing subset of American immigrants.

Basing much of her powerful narrative on the experiences of actual women, Ziegler restores individual faces to women stripped of their basic freedoms. She begins by vividly invoking the social conditions of eighteenth-century Britain, which suffered high levels of criminal activity, frequently petty thievery. Contemporary readers and scholars will be fascinated by Ziegler’s explanation of how gender-influenced punishments were meted out to women and often ensnared them in Britain’s system of convict labor.

Ziegler also clearly describes the methods and operation of the convict trade and sale procedures in colonial markets. Readers will travel with her to the places where convict servants were deployed and will come to understand the role these women played in colonial Maryland and their contributions to the region’s society and economy. Ziegler’s research also sheds light on escape attempts and the lives that awaited those who survived servitude.

Mostly illiterate, convict women left few primary sources such as diaries or letters in their own words. Ziegler has masterfully researched the penumbra of associated documents and accounts to reconstruct the worlds of eighteenth-century Britain and colonial Maryland and the lives of these unwilling American settlers. In illuminating this little-known episode in American history, Ziegler also discusses not just the fact that these women have been largely forgotten, but why. Harlots, Hussies and Poor Unfortunate Women makes a valuable contribution to American history, women’s studies, and labor history.

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A Harmony of the Spirits

Translation and the Language of Community in Early Pennsylvania

Patrick M. Erben

In early Pennsylvania, translation served as a utopian tool creating harmony across linguistic, religious, and ethnic differences. Patrick Erben challenges the long-standing historical myth--first promulgated by Benjamin Franklin--that language diversity posed a threat to communal coherence. He deftly traces the pansophist and Neoplatonist philosophies of European reformers that informed the radical English and German Protestants who founded the "holy experiment." Their belief in hidden yet persistent links between human language and the word of God impelled their vision of a common spiritual idiom. Translation became the search for underlying correspondences between diverse human expressions of the divine and served as a model for reconciliation and inclusiveness.
Drawing on German and English archival sources, Erben examines iconic translations that engendered community in colonial Pennsylvania, including William Penn's translingual promotional literature, Francis Daniel Pastorius's multilingual poetics, Ephrata's "angelic" singing and transcendent calligraphy, the Moravians' polyglot missions, and the common language of suffering for peace among Quakers, Pietists, and Mennonites. By revealing a mystical quest for unity, Erben presents a compelling counternarrative to monolingualism and Enlightenment empiricism in eighteenth-century America.

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The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand

Roanoke's Forgotten Indians

By Michael Leroy Oberg

Roanoke is part of the lore of early America, the colony that disappeared. Many Americans know of Sir Walter Ralegh's ill-fated expedition, but few know about the Algonquian peoples who were the island's inhabitants. The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand examines Ralegh's plan to create an English empire in the New World but also the attempts of native peoples to make sense of the newcomers who threatened to transform their world in frightening ways.

Beginning his narrative well before Ralegh's arrival, Michael Leroy Oberg looks closely at the Indians who first encountered the colonists. The English intruded into a well-established Native American world at Roanoke, led by Wingina, the weroance, or leader, of the Algonquian peoples on the island. Oberg also pays close attention to how the weroance and his people understood the arrival of the English: we watch as Wingina's brother first boards Ralegh's ship, and we listen in as Wingina receives the report of its arrival. Driving the narrative is the leader's ultimate fate: Wingina is decapitated by one of Ralegh's men in the summer of 1586.

When the story of Roanoke is recast in an effort to understand how and why an Algonquian weroance was murdered, and with what consequences, we arrive at a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of what happened during this, the dawn of English settlement in America.

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