Circles and Lines: The Shape of Life in Early America (The by John Demos

By John Demos

during this intimate, attractive e-book, John Demos bargains an illuminating portrait of the way colonial american citizens, from the 1st settlers to the postrevolutionary iteration, seen their lifestyles reports. He additionally bargains a useful within investigate the craft of a grasp social historian as he unearths--in occasionally unforeseen places--fragments of facts that aid us probe the inner lives of individuals from the far flung prior.

The earliest settlers lived in a conventional global of traditional cycles that formed their habit: day and evening; seasonal rhythms; the lunar cycle; the lifestyles cycle itself. certainly, so uncomplicated have been those components that "almost nobody felt a necessity to touch upon them." but he unearths cyclical patterns--in the seasonal meals they ate, within the spike in marriages following the fall harvest. Witchcraft instances display the several emotional reactions to day as opposed to evening, as unintentional mishaps within the gentle develop into anxious evening mysteries. in the course of the transitional international of the yankee Revolution, humans started to see their society in more moderen phrases yet appeared not able or unwilling to return to phrases with that novelty. american citizens turned new, Demos issues out, prior to they totally understood what it intended. Their cyclical body of reference used to be coming unmoored, giving technique to a linear international view in early nineteenth-century the US that's well captured through Kentucky surgeon Daniel Drake's description of the chronography of his lifestyles.

In his meditation on those 3 worlds, Demos brilliantly demonstrates how huge old forces are mirrored in person lives. With the imaginitive insights and personable contact that we have got come to count on from this superb chronicler of the human situation, Circles and Lines is classic John Demos.

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Additional resources for Circles and Lines: The Shape of Life in Early America (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)

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They were not, they said, attempting anything radically new and different, but were simply reacting to recent “tyranny” and reasserting age-old principles of life, liberty, and human happiness. ” In an 1825 letter to his friend Henry Lee, Jefferson offered this somewhat laconic reflection. ” Thus did a little dollop of Bradford’s distaste for “giddy . . newfangledness” survive, even in one of Revolutionary America’s most creative leaders. Yet it would be easy to push such parallels too far. When one reads a little below the surface of the usual Revolutionary rhetoric—which is, of course, where scholars have been reading it for the past generation or two—one comes upon a cross-current that balances old and new in a very different way.

He is one who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced. He is arrived on a new continent . . ”14 New, new, new, new: the melody is impossible to miss. And it rises to a powerful crescendo in the years of the early republic (or, for that matter, of the new nation). This extraordinary preoccupation with novelty is well known; we can just replay a few of its most characteristic bars. The new nation must have a new language.

Here is an odd, and illustrative, moment in the career of Thomas Paine—he of the “begin-theworld-over-again” comment in Common Sense. Some years after this pamphlet was printed, when Paine was debating Edmund Burke on “the rights of man,” he wished to associate those rights—and the American Revolution itself—with ancient and honorable tradition. The trouble was that “revolution” had by now assumed its innovative meaning, so Paine felt obliged to propose the term “counter-Revolution” as a way of designating both the American and the French struggles.

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