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History > U.S. History > Colonial Era

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New Israel / New England Cover

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New Israel / New England

Jews and Puritans in Early America

Michael Hoberman

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.

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New Men

Manliness in Early America

Thomas A. Foster, Mary Beth Norton, Toby L. Ditz

“With New Men, Foster ushers in a new era in masculinity studies. Both historically precise and analytically astute, these essays provide multiple meditations on masculinity before the birth of the nation.”

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New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty

By Evan Haefeli

The settlers of New Netherland were obligated to uphold religious toleration as a legal right by the Dutch Republic's founding document, the 1579 Union of Utrecht, which stated that "everyone shall remain free in religion and that no one may be persecuted or investigated because of religion." For early American historians this statement, unique in the world at its time, lies at the root of American pluralism.

New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty offers a new reading of the way tolerance operated in colonial America. Using sources in several languages and looking at laws and ideas as well as their enforcement and resistance, Evan Haefeli shows that, although tolerance as a general principle was respected in the colony, there was a pronounced struggle against it in practice. Crucial to the fate of New Netherland were the changing religious and political dynamics within the English empire. In the end, Haefeli argues, the most crucial factor in laying the groundwork for religious tolerance in colonial America was less what the Dutch did than their loss of the region to the English at a moment when the English were unusually open to religious tolerance. This legacy, often overlooked, turns out to be critical to the history of American religious diversity.

By setting Dutch America within its broader imperial context, New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty offers a comprehensive and nuanced history of a conflict integral to the histories of the Dutch republic, early America, and religious tolerance.

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New Netherland Connections

Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America

Susanah Shaw Romney

Romney locates the foundations of the early modern Dutch empire in interpersonal transactions among women and men. As West India Company ships began sailing westward in the early seventeenth century, soldiers, sailors, and settlers drew on kin and social relationships to function within an Atlantic economy and the nascent colony of New Netherland. In the greater Hudson Valley, Dutch newcomers, Native American residents, and enslaved Africans wove a series of intimate networks that reached from the West India Company slave house on Manhattan, to the Haudenosaunee longhouses along the Mohawk River, to the inns and alleys of maritime Amsterdam. This work pioneers a new understanding of the development of early modern empire as arising out of personal ties.

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The Ocean Is a Wilderness

Atlantic Piracy and the Limits of State Authority, 1688-1856

Guy Chet

Historians have long maintained that the rise of the British empire brought an end to the great age of piracy, turning the once violent Atlantic frontier into a locus of orderly commerce by 1730. In this book, Guy Chet reassesses that view by documenting the persistence of piracy, smuggling, and other forms of illegal trade throughout the eighteenth century despite ongoing governmental campaigns to stamp it out. The failure of the Royal Navy to police oceanic trade reflected the state’s limited authority and legitimacy at port, in the courts, and in the hearts and minds of Anglo-American constituents. Chet shows how the traditional focus on the growth of the modern state overlooked the extent to which old attitudes and cultural practices continued to hold sway. Even as the British government extended its naval, legal, and bureaucratic reach, in many parts of the Atlantic world illegal trade was not only tolerated but encouraged. In part this was because Britain’s constabulary command of the region remained more tenuous than some have suggested, and in part because maritime insurance and wartime tax policies ensured that piracy and smuggling remained profitable. When Atlantic piracy eventually waned in the early nineteenth century, it had more to do with a reduction in its profitability at port than with forceful confrontation at sea. Challenging traditional accounts that chronicle forces of civilization taming a wild Atlantic frontier, this book is a valuable addition to a body of borderlands scholarship reevaluating the relationship between the emerging modern state and its imperial frontiers.

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On the eve of conquest

the Chevalier de Raymond's critique of New France in 1754

Charles de Raymond

In 1754, Charles de Raymond, chevalier of the Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis and a captain in the Troupes de la Marine wrote a bold, candid, and revealing expose; on the French colonial posts and settlements of New France. On the Eve of the Conquest, more than an annotated translation, includes a discussion on the historical background of the start of the French and Indian War, as well as a concise biography of Raymond and Michel Le Courtois de Surlaville, the army colonel at the French court to whom the report was sent. The events surrounding Raymond's controversial year as commandant of the post (now Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 1749-50, his disputed recall by Governor General Jacques-Pierre de Taffanel de La Jonquier, and the subsequent friction between La Jonquiere's successor, Ange de Menneville Duqesne, and Raymond are presented in detail and illustrated by translations of their correspondence.  
 

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On the Rim of the Caribbean

Colonial Georgia and the British Atlantic World

Paul M. Pressly

How did colonial Georgia, an economic backwater in its early days, make its way into the burgeoning Caribbean and Atlantic economies where trade spilled over national boundaries, merchants operated in multiple markets, and the transport of enslaved Africans bound together four continents?

In On the Rim of the Caribbean, Paul M. Pressly interprets Georgia's place in the Atlantic world in light of recent work in transnational and economic history. He considers how a tiny elite of newly arrived merchants, adapting to local culture but loyal to a larger vision of the British empire, led the colony into overseas trade. From this perspective, Pressly examines the ways in which Georgia came to share many of the characteristics of the sugar islands, how Savannah developed as a "Caribbean" town, the dynamics of an emerging slave market, and the role of merchant-planters as leaders in forging a highly adaptive economic culture open to innovation. The colony's rapid growth holds a larger story: how a frontier where Carolinians played so large a role earned its own distinctive character.

Georgia's slowness in responding to the revolutionary movement, Pressly maintains, had a larger context. During the colonial era, the lowcountry remained oriented to the West Indies and Atlantic and failed to develop close ties to the North American mainland as had South Carolina. He suggests that the American Revolution initiated the process of bringing the lowcountry into the orbit of the mainland, a process that would extend well beyond the Revolution.

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One Colonial Woman's World

The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit

Michelle Marchetti Coughlin

This book reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, she began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. A previously overlooked resource, the diary contains entries on a broad range of topics as well as poems, recipes, folk and herbal medical remedies, religious meditations, and financial accounts. An extensive collection of letters by Coit and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences. Michelle Marchetti Coughlin combs through these writings to create a vivid portrait of a colonial American woman and the world she inhabited. Coughlin documents the activities of daily life as well as dramas occasioned by war, epidemics, and political upheaval. Though Coit’s opportunities were circumscribed by gender norms of the day, she led a rich and varied life, not only running a household and raising a family, but reading, writing, traveling, transacting business, and maintaining a widespread network of social and commercial connections. She also took a lively interest in the world around her and played an active role in her community. Coit’s long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous—and sometimes surprising—ways in which her personal history was linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.

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One Family Under God

Love, Belonging, and Authority in Early Transatlantic Methodism

By Anna M. Lawrence

Originally a sect within the Anglican church, Methodism blossomed into a dominant mainstream religion in America during the nineteenth century. At the beginning, though, Methodists constituted a dissenting religious group whose ideas about sexuality, marriage, and family were very different from those of their contemporaries.

Focusing on the Methodist notion of family that cut across biological ties, One Family Under God speaks to historical debates over the meaning of family and how the nuclear family model developed over the eighteenth century. Historian Anna M. Lawrence demonstrates that Methodists adopted flexible definitions of affection and allegiance and emphasized extended communal associations that enabled them to incorporate people outside the traditional boundaries of family. They used the language of romantic, ecstatic love to describe their religious feelings and the language of the nuclear family to describe their bonds to one another. In this way, early Methodism provides a useful lens for exploring eighteenth-century modes of family, love, and authority, as Methodists grappled with the limits of familial and social authority in their extended religious family.

Methodists also married and formed conjugal families within this larger spiritual framework. Evangelical modes of marriage called for careful, slow courtships, and often marriages happened later in life and produced fewer children. Religious views of the family offered alternatives to traditional coupling and marriage—through celibacy, spiritual service, and the idea of finding one's true spiritual match, which both challenged the role of parental authority within marriage-making and accelerated the turn within the larger society toward romantic marriage.

By examining the language and practice of evangelical sexuality and family, One Family Under God highlights how the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century was central to the rise of romantic marriage and the formation of the modern family.

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The Opened Letter

Networking in the Early Modern British World

By Lindsay O'Neill

By the early eighteenth century, the rapid expansion of the British empire had created a technological problem: communication and networking became increasingly vital yet harder to maintain. As colonial possessions and populations grew and more individuals moved around the globe, Britons both at home and abroad required a constant and reliable means of communication to conduct business, plumb intellectual concerns, discuss family matters, run distant estates, and exchange news. As face-to-face communication became more intermittent, men and women across the early modern British world relied on letters.

In The Opened Letter, historian Lindsay O'Neill explores the importance and impact of networking via letter-writing among the members of the elite from England, Ireland, and the colonies. Combining extensive archival research with social network digital technology, The Opened Letter captures the dynamic associations that created a vibrant, expansive, and elaborate web of communication. The author examined more than 10,000 letters produced by such figures as Virginia planters William Byrd I and his son William Byrd II; the Anglo-Irish nobleman John Perceval; the newly minted Duke of Chandos, James Brydges, and his wife Cassandra Brydges; and Sir Hans Sloane, the president of the Royal Society, and his colleague Peter Collinson. She also mined letters from the likes of Nicholas Blundell, a Catholic member of the Lancashire gentry, and James Eliot, a London merchant and ardent Quaker. The Opened Letter reassembles and presents the vital individual and interlocking epistolary webs constructed by disparate groups of letter writers. These early social networks illuminate the structural, social, and geographic workings of the British world as the nation was becoming a dominant global power.

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