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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Envisioning an English Empire

Jamestown and the Making of the North Atlantic World

Edited by Robert Appelbaum and John Wood Sweet

Envisioning an English Empire brings together leading historians and literary scholars to reframe our understanding of the history of Jamestown and the literature of empire that emerged from it.

The founding of an English colony at Jamestown in 1607 was no isolated incident. It was one event among many in the long development of the North Atlantic world. Ireland, Spain, Morocco, West Africa, Turkey, and the Native federations of North America all played a role alongside the Virginia Company in London and English settlers on the ground. English proponents of empire responded as much to fears of Spanish ambitions, fantasies about discovering gold, and dreams of easily dominating the region's Natives as they did to the grim lessons of earlier, failed outposts in North America. Developments in trade and technology, in diplomatic relations and ideology, in agricultural practices and property relations were as crucial as the self-consciously combative adventurers who initially set sail for the Chesapeake.

The collection begins by exploring the initial encounters between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians and the relations of both these groups with London. It goes on to examine the international context that defined English colonialism in this period—relations with Spain, the Turks, North Africa, and Ireland. Finally, it turns to the ways both settlers and Natives were transformed over the course of the seventeenth century, considering conflicts and exchanges over food, property, slavery, and colonial identity.

What results is a multifaceted view of the history of Jamestown up to the time of Bacon's Rebellion and its aftermath. The writings of Captain John Smith, the experience of Powhatans in London, the letters home of a disappointed indentured servant, the Moroccans, Turks, and Indians of the English stage, the ethnographic texts of early explorers, and many other phenomena all come into focus as examples of the envisioning of a nascent empire and the Atlantic world in which it found a hold.

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First City

Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory

By Gary B. Nash

With its rich foundation stories, Philadelphia may be the most important city in America's collective memory. By the middle of the eighteenth century William Penn's "greene countrie town" was, after London, the largest city in the British Empire. The two most important documents in the history of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were drafted and signed in Philadelphia. The city served off and on as the official capital of the young country until 1800, and was also the site of the first American university, hospital, medical college, bank, paper mill, zoo, sugar refinery, public school, and government mint.

In First City, acclaimed historian Gary B. Nash examines the complex process of memory making in this most historic of American cities. Though history is necessarily written from the evidence we have of the past, as Nash shows, rarely is that evidence preserved without intent, nor is it equally representative. Full of surprising anecdotes, First City reveals how Philadelphians—from members of elite cultural institutions, such as historical societies and museums, to relatively anonymous groups, such as women, racial and religious minorities, and laboring people—have participated in the very partisan activity of transmitting historical memory from one generation to the next.

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First Lady of Letters

Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence

By Sheila L. Skemp

Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820), poet, essayist, playwright, and one of the most thoroughgoing advocates of women's rights in early America, was as well known in her own day as Abigail Adams or Martha Washington. Her name, though, has virtually disappeared from the public consciousness. Thanks to the recent discovery of Murray's papers—including some 2,500 personal letters—historian Sheila L. Skemp has documented the compelling story of this talented and most unusual eighteenth-century woman.

Born in Gloucester, Massachussetts, Murray moved to Boston in 1793 with her second husband, Universalist minister John Murray. There she became part of the city's literary scene. Two of her plays were performed at Federal Street Theater, making her the first American woman to have a play produced in Boston. There, as well, she wrote and published her magnum opus, The Gleaner, a three-volume "miscellany" that included poems, essays, and the novel-like story "Margaretta." After 1800, Murray's output diminished and her hopes for literary renown faded. Suffering from the backlash against women's rights that had begun to permeate American society, struggling with economic difficulties, and concerned about providing the best possible education for her daughter, she devoted little time to writing. But while her efforts diminished, they never ceased.

Murray was determined to transcend the boundaries that limited women of her era and worked tirelessly to have women granted the same right to the "pursuit of happiness" immortalized in the Declaration of Independence. She questioned the meaning of gender itself, emphasizing the human qualities men and women shared, arguing that the apparent distinctions were the consequence of nurture, not nature. Although she was disappointed in the results of her efforts, Murray nevertheless left a rich intellectual and literary legacy, in which she challenged the new nation to fulfill its promise of equality to all citizens.

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The First Prejudice

Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America

Edited by Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda

In many ways, religion was the United States' first prejudice—both an early source of bigotry and the object of the first sustained efforts to limit its effects. Spanning more than two centuries across colonial British America and the United States, The First Prejudice offers a groundbreaking exploration of the early history of persecution and toleration. The twelve essays in this volume were composed by leading historians with an eye to the larger significance of religious tolerance and intolerance. Individual chapters examine the prosecution of religious crimes, the biblical sources of tolerance and intolerance, the British imperial context of toleration, the bounds of Native American spiritual independence, the nuances of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, the resilience of African American faiths, and the challenges confronted by skeptics and freethinkers.

The First Prejudice presents a revealing portrait of the rhetoric, regulations, and customs that shaped the relationships between people of different faiths in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America. It relates changes in law and language to the lived experience of religious conflict and religious cooperation, highlighting the crucial ways in which they molded U.S. culture and politics. By incorporating a broad range of groups and religious differences in its accounts of tolerance and intolerance, The First Prejudice opens a significant new vista on the understanding of America's long experience with diversity.

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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 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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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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Hopeful Journeys

German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775

By Aaron Spencer Fogleman

In 1700, some 250,000 white and black inhabitants populated the thirteen American colonies, with the vast majority of whites either born in England or descended from English immigrants. By 1776, the non-Native American population had increased tenfold, and non-English Europeans and Africans dominated new immigration. Of all the European immigrant groups, the Germans may have been the largest.

Aaron Spencer Fogleman has written the first comprehensive history of this eighteenth-century German settlement of North America. Utilizing a vast body of published and archival sources, many of them never before made accessible outside of Germany, Fogleman emphasizes the importance of German immigration to colonial America, the European context of the Germans' emigration, and the importance of networks to their success in America

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Imperial Entanglements

Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire

By Gail D. MacLeitch

Imperial Entanglements chronicles the history of the Haudenosaunee Iroquois in the eighteenth century, a dramatic period during which they became further entangled in a burgeoning market economy, participated in imperial warfare, and encountered a waxing British Empire. Rescuing the Seven Years' War era from the shadows of the American Revolution and moving away from the political focus that dominates Iroquois studies, historian Gail D. MacLeitch offers a fresh examination of Iroquois experience in economic and cultural terms. As land sellers, fur hunters, paid laborers, consumers, and commercial farmers, the Iroquois helped to create a new economic culture that connected the New York hinterland to a transatlantic world of commerce. By doing so they exposed themselves to both opportunities and risks.

As their economic practices changed, so too did Iroquois ways of making sense of gender and ethnic differences. MacLeitch examines the formation of new cultural identities as men and women negotiated challenges to long-established gendered practices and confronted and cocreated a new racialized discourses of difference. On the frontiers of empire, Indians, as much as European settlers, colonial officials, and imperial soldiers, directed the course of events. However, as MacLeitch also demonstrates, imperial entanglements with a rising British power intent on securing native land, labor, and resources ultimately worked to diminish Iroquois economic and political sovereignty.

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In My Power

Letter Writing and Communications in Early America

By Konstantin Dierks

In My Power tells the story of letter writing and communications in the creation of the British Empire and the formation of the United States. In an era of bewildering geographical mobility, economic metamorphosis, and political upheaval, the proliferation of letter writing and the development of a communications infrastructure enabled middle-class Britons and Americans to rise to advantage in the British Atlantic world.

Everyday letter writing demonstrated that the blessings of success in the early modern world could come less from the control of overt political power than from the cultivation of social skills that assured the middle class of their technical credentials, moral deserving, and social innocence. In writing letters, the middle class not only took effective action in a turbulent world but also defined what they believed themselves to be able to do in that world. Because this ideology of agency was extended to women and the youngest of children in the eighteenth century, it could be presented as universalized even as it was withheld from Native Americans and enslaved blacks.

Whatever the explicit purposes behind letter writing may have been—educational improvement, family connection, business enterprise—the effect was to render the full terms of social division invisible both to those who accumulated power and to those who did not. The uncontested power that came from letter writing was, Konstantin Dierks provocatively argues, as important as racist violence to the rise of the white middle class in the British Atlantic world.

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