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For a Short Time Only

Itinerants and the Resurgence of Popular Culture in Early America

Peter Benes

By the 1740s, colonists living in North America began to encounter scores of itinerant performers from England and Europe. These show people—acrobats, wire dancers, tumblers, trick riders, painters, dancing-masters, waxworks proprietors, healers, and singing and language teachers—brought novelty and culture to remote areas. Advertising in newspapers, they attracted audiences with the hook of appearing “for a short time only.” In this richly illustrated and deeply researched book, Peter Benes examines the rise of early American popular culture through the lives and work of itinerants who circulated in British North America and the United States from the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth century. Although they were frequently reviled as quacks and absconders by many provincials, these transients enjoyed a unique camaraderie and found audiences among high- and lowbrow alike. Drawing on contemporary diaries, letters, reminiscences, and hitherto inaccessible newspaper ads, broadsides, and images, Benes suggests why some elements of Europe’s carnival and folklore traditions failed to gain acceptance in American society while others flourished brilliantly.

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For God, King, and People

Forging Commonwealth Bonds in Renaissance Virginia

Alexander B. Haskell

By recovering a largely forgotten English Renaissance mindset that regarded sovereignty and Providence as being fundamentally entwined, Alexander Haskell reconnects concepts historians had before treated as separate categories and argues that the first English planters in Virginia operated within a deeply providential age rather than an era of early modern entrepreneurialism. These men did not merely settle Virginia; they and their London-based sponsors saw this first successful English venture in America as an exercise in divinely inspired and approved commonwealth creation. When the realities of Virginia complicated this humanist ideal, growing disillusionment and contention marked debates over the colony.

Rather than just "selling" colonization to the realm, proponents instead needed to overcome profound and recurring doubts about whether God wanted English rule to cross the Atlantic and the process by which it was to happen. By contextualizing these debates within a late Renaissance phase in England, Haskell links increasing religious skepticism to the rise of decidedly secular conceptions of state power. Haskell offers a radical revision of accepted narratives of early modern state formation, locating it as an outcome, rather than as an antecedent, of colonial endeavor.

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The Formation of a Society on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1615-1655

James R. Perry

The dissolution of the ill-starred Virginia Company in 1624 left Virginia -- now England's first royal colony -- without a formal raison d'etre. Most historians have suggested that the nascent local societies were anarchic, under the thrall of violent and unscrupulous men.

James Perry asserts the opposite: The Formation of a Society on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1615-1655 depicts emergent social cohesion. In a model of network analysis, Perry mines county court records to trace landholders through four decades -- their land, families, neighborhoods, local and offshore economic relations, and institutions. A wealth of statistics documents their development from rudimentary beginnings to a more highly articulated society capable of resolving conflict and working toward communal good.

Perry's methodology will serve as a model for analyzing other new settlements, particularly those lacking the close-knit religious bonds and contractual foundations of New England towns. His conclusions will reshape notions of the development of early Chesapeake society.

Originally published in 1990.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

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Foul Means

The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740

Anthony S. Parent Jr.

Challenging the generally accepted belief that the introduction of racial slavery to America was an unplanned consequence of a scarce labor market, Anthony Parent, Jr., contends that during a brief period spanning the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries a small but powerful planter class, acting to further its emerging economic interests, intentionally brought racial slavery to Virginia.

Parent bases his argument on three historical developments: the expropriation of Powhatan lands, the switch from indentured to slave labor, and the burgeoning tobacco trade. He argues that these were the result of calculated moves on the part of an emerging great planter class seeking to consolidate power through large landholdings and the labor to make them productive. To preserve their economic and social gains, this planter class inscribed racial slavery into law. The ensuing racial and class tensions led elite planters to mythologize their position as gentlemen of pastoral virtue immune to competition and corruption. To further this benevolent image, they implemented a plan to Christianize slaves and thereby render them submissive. According to Parent, by the 1720s the Virginia gentry projected a distinctive cultural ethos that buffered them from their uncertain hold on authority, threatened both by rising imperial control and by black resistance, which exploded in the Chesapeake Rebellion of 1730.

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Freedom's Debt

The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672-1752

William A. Pettigrew

In the years following the Glorious Revolution, independent slave traders challenged the charter of the Royal African Company by asserting their natural rights as Britons to trade freely in enslaved Africans. In this comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the RAC, William A. Pettigrew grounds the transatlantic slave trade in politics, not economic forces, analyzing the ideological arguments of the RAC and its opponents in Parliament and in public debate. Ultimately, Pettigrew powerfully reasons that freedom became the rallying cry for those who wished to participate in the slave trade and therefore bolstered the expansion of the largest intercontinental forced migration in history.

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Freshwater Passages

The Trade and Travels of Peter Pond

David Chapin

Peter Pond, a fur trader, explorer, and amateur mapmaker, spent his life ranging much farther afield than Milford, Connecticut, where he was born and died (1740–1807). He traded around the Great Lakes, on the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers, and in the Canadian Northwest and is also well known as a partner in Montreal’s North West Company and as mentor to Alexander Mackenzie, who journeyed down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Sea. Knowing eighteenth-century North America on a scale that few others did, Pond drew some of the earliest maps of western Canada.

 

In this meticulous biography, David Chapin presents Pond’s life as part of a generation of traders who came of age between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. Pond’s encounters with a plethora of distinct Native cultures over the course of his career shaped his life and defined his career. Whereas previous studies have caricatured Pond as quarrelsome and explosive, Chapin presents him as an intellectually curious, proud, talented, and ambitious man, living in a world that could often be quite violent. Chapin draws together a wide range of sources and information in presenting a deeper, more multidimensional portrait and understanding of Pond than hitherto has been available.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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