University of Pennsylvania Press

Early American Studies

Series Editors: Daniel K. Richter, Kathleen M. Brown, Max Cavitch, and David Waldstreicher

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Class Matters

Early North America and the Atlantic World

Edited by Simon Middleton and Billy G. Smith

As a category of historical analysis, class is dead—or so it has been reported over the past two decades. The contributors to Class Matters contest this demise. Although differing in their approaches, they all agree that socioeconomic inequality remains indispensable to a true understanding of the transition from the early modern to modern era in North America and the rest of the Atlantic world. As a whole, they chart the emergence of class as a concept and its subsequent loss of analytic purchase in Anglo-American historiography.

The opening section considers the dynamics of class relations in the Atlantic world across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—from Iroquoian and Algonquian communities in North America to tobacco lords in Glasgow. Subsequent chapters examine the cultural development of a new and aspirational middle class and its relationship to changing economic conditions and the articulation of corporate and industrial ideologies in the era of the American Revolution and beyond.

A final section shifts the focus to the poor and vulnerable—tenant farmers, infant paupers, and the victims of capital punishment. In each case the authors describe how elite Americans exercised their political and social power to structure the lives and deaths of weaker members of their communities. An impassioned afterword urges class historians to take up the legacies of historical materialism. Engaging the difficulties and range of meanings of class, the essays in Class Matters seek to energize the study of social relations in the Atlantic world.

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Contested Spaces of Early America

Edited by Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman

Colonial America stretched from Quebec to Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. Although European settlers laid claim to territories they called New Spain, New England, and New France, the reality of living in those spaces had little to do with European kingdoms. Instead, the New World's holdings took their form and shape from the Indian territories they inhabited. These contested spaces throughout the western hemisphere were not unclaimed lands waiting to be conquered and populated but a single vast space, occupied by native communities and defined by the meeting, mingling, and clashing of peoples, creating societies unlike any that the world had seen before.

Contested Spaces of Early America brings together some of the most distinguished historians in the field to view colonial America on the largest possible scale. Lavishly illustrated with maps, Native art, and color plates, the twelve chapters span the southern reaches of New Spain through Mexico and Navajo Country to the Dakotas and Upper Canada, and the early Indian civilizations to the ruins of the nineteenth-century West. At the heart of this volume is a search for a human geography of colonial relations: Contested Spaces of Early America aims to rid the historical landscape of imperial cores, frontier peripheries, and modern national borders to redefine the way scholars imagine colonial America.

Contributors: Matthew Babcock, Ned Blackhawk, Chantal Cramaussel, Brian DeLay, Elizabeth Fenn, Allan Greer, Pekka Hämäläinen, Raúl José Mandrini, Cynthia Radding, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Alan Taylor, and Samuel Truett.

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Dangerous Economies

Status and Commerce in Imperial New York

By Serena R. Zabin

Before the American Revolution, the people who lived in British North America were not just colonists; they were also imperial subjects. To think of eighteenth-century New Yorkers as Britons rather than incipient Americans allows us fresh investigations into their world. How was the British Empire experienced by those who lived at its margins? How did the mundane affairs of ordinary New Yorkers affect the culture at the center of an enormous commercial empire?

Dangerous Economies is a history of New York culture and commerce in the first two thirds of the eighteenth century, when Britain was just beginning to catch up with its imperial rivals, France and Spain. In that sparsely populated city on the fringe of an empire, enslaved Africans rubbed elbows with white indentured servants while the elite strove to maintain ties with European genteel culture. The transience of the city's people, goods, and fortunes created a notably fluid society in which establishing one's own status or verifying another's was a challenge. New York's shifting imperial identity created new avenues for success but also made success harder to define and demonstrate socially.

Such a mobile urban milieu was the ideal breeding ground for crime and conspiracy, which became all too evident in 1741, when thirty slaves were executed and more than seventy other people were deported after being found guilty—on dubious evidence—of plotting a revolt. This sort of violent outburst was the unforeseen but unsurprising result of the seething culture that existed at the margins of the British Empire.

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Death in the New World

Cross-Cultural Encounters, 1492-1800

By Erik R. Seeman

Reminders of death were everywhere in the New World, from the epidemics that devastated Indian populations and the mortality of slaves working the Caribbean sugar cane fields to the unfamiliar diseases that afflicted Europeans in the Chesapeake and West Indies. According to historian Erik R. Seeman, when Indians, Africans, and Europeans encountered one another, they could not ignore the similarities in their approaches to death. All of these groups believed in an afterlife to which the soul or spirit traveled after death. As a result all felt that corpses—the earthly vessels for the soul or spirit—should be treated with respect, and all mourned the dead with commemorative rituals. Seeman argues that deathways facilitated communication among peoples otherwise divided by language and custom. They observed, asked questions about, and sometimes even participated in their counterparts' rituals.

At the same time, insofar as New World interactions were largely exploitative, the communication facilitated by parallel deathways was often used to influence or gain advantage over one's rivals. In Virginia, for example, John Smith used his knowledge of Powhatan deathways to impress the local Indians with his abilities as a healer as part of his campaign to demonstrate the superiority of English culture. Likewise, in the 1610-1614 war between Indians and English, the Powhatans mutilated English corpses because they knew this act would horrify their enemies.

Told in a series of engrossing narratives, Death in the New World is a landmark study that offers a fresh perspective on the dynamics of cross-cultural encounters and their larger ramifications in the Atlantic world.

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Discerning Characters

The Culture of Appearance in Early America

By Christopher J. Lukasik

In this path-breaking study of the intersections between visual and literary culture, Christopher J. Lukasik explores how early Americans grappled with the relationship between appearance and social distinction in the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Through a wide range of evidence, including canonical and obscure novels, newspapers, periodicals, scientific and medical treatises, and plays as well as conduct manuals, portraits, silhouettes, and engravings, Discerning Characters charts the transition from the eighteenth century's emphasis on performance and manners to the search for a more reliable form of corporeal legibility in the wake of the Revolution. The emergence of physiognomy, which sought to understand a person's character based on apparently unchanging facial features, facilitated a larger shift in perception about the meanings of physical appearance and its relationship to social distinction.

The ensuing struggle between the face as a pliable medium of cultural performance and as rigid evidence of social standing, Lukasik argues, was at the center of the post-Revolutionary novel, which imagined physiognomic distinction as providing stability during a time of cultural division and political turmoil. As Lukasik shows, this tension between a model of character grounded in the fluid performances of the self and one grounded in the permanent features of the face would continue to shape not only the representation of social distinction within the novel but, more broadly, the practices of literary production and reception in nineteenth-century America across a wide range of media.

The result is a new interdisciplinary interpretation of the rise of the novel in America that reconsiders the political and social aims of the genre during the fifty years following the Revolution. In so doing, Discerning Characters powerfully rethinks how we have read—and continue to read—both novels and each other.

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Domestic Intimacies

Incest and the Liberal Subject in Nineteenth-Century America

By Brian Connolly

Although it is commonly thought that incest has been taboo throughout history, nineteenth-century Americans evinced a great cultural anxiety that the prohibition was failing. Theologians debated the meaning and limits of biblical proscription, while jurists abandoned such injunctions and invented a new prohibition organized around the nuclear family. Novelists crafted fictional tales of accidental incest resulting from the severed ties between public and private life, while antislavery writers lamented the ramifications of breaking apart enslaved families. Phrenologists and physiologists established reproduction as the primary motivation of the incest prohibition while naturalizing the incestuous eroticism of sentimental family affection. Ethnographers imagined incest as the norm in so-called primitive societies in contrast to modern civilization. In the absence of clear biological or religious limitations, the young republic developed numerous, varied, and contradictory incest prohibitions.

Domestic Intimacies offers a wide-ranging, critical history of incest and its various prohibitions as they were defined throughout the nineteenth century. Historian Brian Connolly argues that at the center of these convergent anxieties and debates lay the idea of the liberal subject: an autonomous individual who acted on his own desires yet was tempered by reason, who enjoyed a life in public yet was expected to find his greatest satisfaction in family and home. Always lurking was the need to exercise personal freedom with restraint; indeed, the valorization of the affectionate family was rooted in its capacity to act as a bulwark against licentiousness. However it was defined, incest was thus not only perceived as a threat to social stability; it also functioned to regulate social relations—within families and between classes as well as among women and men, slaves and free citizens, strangers and friends. Domestic Intimacies overturns conventional histories of American liberalism by placing the fear of incest at the heart of nineteenth-century conflicts over public life and privacy, kinship and individualism, social contracts and personal freedom.

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Doomsayers

Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution

By Susan Juster

The age of revolution, in which kings were dethroned, radical ideals of human equality embraced, and new constitutions written, was also the age of prophecy. Neither an archaic remnant nor a novel practice, prophecy in the eighteenth century was rooted both in the primitive worldview of the Old Testament and in the vibrant intellectual environment of the philosophers and their political allies, the republicans. In Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution, Susan Juster examines the culture of prophecy in Great Britain and the United States from 1765 to 1815 side by side with the intellectual and political transformations that gave the period its historical distinction as the era of enlightened rationalism and democratic revolution.

Although sometimes viewed as madmen or fools, prophets of the 1790s and early 1800s were very much products of a liberal commercial society, even while they registered their disapproval of the values and practices of that society and fought a determined campaign to return Protestant Anglo-America to its biblical moorings. They enjoyed greater visibility than their counterparts of earlier eras, thanks to the creation of a vigorous new public sphere of coffeehouses, newspapers, corresponding societies, voluntary associations, and penny pamphlets. Prophecy was no longer just the art of applying biblical passages to contemporary events; it was now the business of selling both terror and reassurance to eager buyers. Tracking the careers of several hundred men and women in Britain and North America, most of ordinary background, who preached a message of primitive justice that jarred against the cosmopolitan sensibilities of their audiences, Doomsayers explores how prophetic claims were formulated, challenged, tested, advanced, and abandoned. The stories of these doomsayers, whose colorful careers entertained and annoyed readers across the political spectrum, challenge the notion that religious faith and the Enlightenment represented fundamentally alien ways of living in and with the world.

From the debates over religious enthusiasm staged by churchmen and the literati to the earnest offerings of ordinary men and women to speak to and for God, Doomsayers shows that the contest between prophets and their critics for the allegiance of the Anglo-American reading public was part of a broader recalibration of the norms and values of civic discourse in the age of revolution.

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Embodied History

The Lives of the Poor in Early Philadelphia

By Simon P. Newman

Offering a new view into the lives and experiences of plebeian men and women, and a provocative exploration of the history of the body itself, Embodied History approaches the bodies of the poor in early national Philadelphia as texts to be read and interpreted. Through a close examination of accounts of the bodies that appeared in runaway advertisements and in seafaring, almshouse, prison, hospital, and burial records, Simon P. Newman uses physical details to paint an entirely different portrait of the material circumstances of the poor, examining the ways they became categorized in the emerging social hierarchy, and how they sought to resist such categorization.

The Philadelphians examined in Embodied History were members of the lower sort, a social category that emerged in the early modern period from the belief in a society composed of natural orders and ranks. The population of the urban poor grew rapidly after the American Revolution, and middling and elite citizens were frightened by these poor bodies, from the tattooed professional sailor, to the African American runaway with a highly personalized hairstyle and distinctive mannerisms and gestures, to the vigorous and lively Irish prostitute who refused to be cowed by the condemnation of others, to the hardworking laboring family whose weakened and diseased children played and sang in the alleys. In a new republic premised on liberty and equality, the rapidly increasing ranks of unruly bodies threatened to overwhelm traditional notions of deference, hierarchy, and order.

Affluent Philadelphians responded by employing runaway advertisements, the almshouse, the prison, and to a lesser degree the hospital to incarcerate, control, and correct poor bodies and transform them into well-dressed, hardworking, deferential members of society. Embodied History is a compelling and accessible exploration of how poverty was etched and how power and discipline were enacted upon the bodies of the poor, as well as how the poor attempted to transcend such discipline through assertions of bodily agency and liberty.

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Empire by Collaboration

Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country

By Robert Michael Morrissey

From the beginnings of colonial settlement in Illinois Country, the region was characterized by self-determination and collaboration that did not always align with imperial plans. The French in Quebec established a somewhat reluctant alliance with the Illinois Indians while Jesuits and fur traders planted defiant outposts in the Illinois River Valley beyond the Great Lakes. These autonomous early settlements were brought into the French empire only after the fact. As the colony grew, the authority that governed the region was often uncertain: Canada and Louisiana alternately claimed control over the Illinois throughout the eighteenth century. Later, British and Spanish authorities tried to divide the region along the Mississippi River. Yet Illinois settlers and Native people continued to welcome and partner with European governments, even if that meant playing the competing empires against one another in order to pursue local interests.

Empire by Collaboration explores the remarkable community and distinctive creole culture of colonial Illinois Country, characterized by compromise and flexibility rather than domination and resistance. Drawing on extensive archival research, Robert Michael Morrissey demonstrates how Natives, officials, traders, farmers, religious leaders, and slaves constantly negotiated local and imperial priorities and worked purposefully together to achieve their goals. Their pragmatic intercultural collaboration gave rise to new economies, new forms of social life, and new forms of political engagement. Empire by Collaboration shows that this rugged outpost on the fringe of empire bears central importance to the evolution of early America.

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The Empire Reformed

English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution

By Owen Stanwood

The Empire Reformed tells the story of a forgotten revolution in English America—a revolution that created not a new nation but a new kind of transatlantic empire. During the seventeenth century England's American colonies were remote, disorganized outposts with reputations for political turmoil. Colonial subjects rebelled against authority with stunning regularity, culminating in uprisings that toppled colonial governments in the wake of England's "Glorious Revolution" in 1688-89. Nonetheless, after this crisis authorities in both England and the colonies successfully rebuilt the empire, providing the cornerstone of the great global power that would conquer much of the continent over the following century.

In The Empire Reformed historian Owen Stanwood illustrates this transition in a narrative that moves from Boston to London to Barbados and Bermuda. He demonstrates not only how the colonies fit into the empire but how imperial politics reflected—and influenced—changing power dynamics in England and Europe during the late 1600s. In particular, Stanwood reveals how the language of Catholic conspiracies informed most colonists' understanding of politics, serving first as the catalyst of rebellions against authority, but later as an ideological glue that held the disparate empire together. In the wake of the Glorious Revolution imperial leaders and colonial subjects began to define the British empire as a potent Protestant union that would save America from the designs of French "papists" and their "savage" Indian allies. By the eighteenth century, British Americans had become proud imperialists, committed to the project of expanding British power in the Americas.

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