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Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 / Edition 1

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2000 Hard cover Illustrated. New in new dust jacket. BRIGHT SHINY, BRAND NEW Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 336 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Multinational, profit-driven, materialistic, power-hungry, religiously plural: America today -- and three hundred years ago. Jon Butler's panoramic view of the mainland American colonies after 1680 transforms our customary picture of prerevolutionary America; it reveals a strikingly "modern" character that belies the eighteenth-century quaintness fixed in history. Stressing the middle and late decades (the hitherto "dark ages") of the American colonial experience, Butler shows us vast revolutionary changes in a society that, for ninety years before 1776, was already becoming America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Historians have often argued that the colonies became "Europeanized" in the century before the American Revolution, but in his latest book, Yale historian Butler (Awash in a Sea of Faith) contends that we need to pay close attention to this slice of early American history. The decades in between the Puritan-dominated 17th century and the market-revolutionizing early 19th century were a formative period, he suggests, during which a distinctly "American" society--and, as Butler would have it, the first "modern" society--developed. It was a culture "simultaneously aggressive and willful, materialistic as well as idealistic, driven toward authority and mastery." Butler examines the Americanizing process in the realms of politics, economics, religion and material culture. In the first chapter, "Peoples," Butler reminds readers that late colonial society was polyglot and diverse--including Germans, French, Scots, Ibo, Ashanti, Yoruba, Catawba and Leni-Lenape. The rest of the book is marked by Butler's characteristic innovation. Regarding politics, for instance, he suggests that Americans were no longer harmoniously self-governing through the town meeting; it was the colony itself, rather than the local microcosm, that was the center of political life. Likewise, distinctly American decorative arts began to develop during these years: after 1680, the relatively simple public buildings of the 17th century were "replaced by far larger, more elaborate facilities." Butler's original analysis is important reading on 18th-century America; he shows that the colonies were developing distinct ways of spending, building, praying, decorating and politicking even then--a cultural revolution that anticipated the political revolution that was to follow. B&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
KLIATT
This interesting, informative book will provide a great deal of food for thought for serious students of American history. The well-organized text has the tone of a series of well-planned lectures and will motivate some readers to do further research. Though scholarly in nature, the text is conversational in tone and the intended audience will find it to be very readable. Although there are no maps or charts and few illustrations, print size and page arrangement are not intimidating. This book will be an excellent resource for fledgling history majors. Other students will find it to be a valuable source of information when writing papers. The nine-page index and the 50 pages of notes are assets. Each of the first five chapters is generally broken down into three geographic areas: New England, the middle colonies, and the South. The organization of each is easily discernible and the information is presented in a manner that lends itself to outlining and/or note taking. The first two chapters, "People" and "Economy," are presented geographically. Politics is discussed chronologically. "Things Material" (e.g., furniture, buildings) are examined by topic. "Things Spiritual" (religion) are explored by individual sects and their geographic location. The final chapter, "1776," presents an excellent summation of the reasons for the revolution and the colonies becoming what the author refers to as "the first modern society." Not for the general YA readership, but there is a definite audience among them. Category: History & Geography. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students, and adults. 2000, Harvard Univ. Press, 324p. illus. notes. index., $16.00. Ages 17 to adult.Reviewer: Prof. John E. Boyd; Jenkintown, PA SOURCE: KLIATT, March 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 2)
Kirkus Reviews
In a thoughtful, erudite survey of colonial history, Butler (Awash in a Sea of Faith, not reviewed) traces the formation of many of America's modern social characteristics in the crucible of pre-Revolutionary society. Americans today think of the colonial period, if at all, as a time remote from modern America, in which society was unimaginably different from ours. Butler argues persuasively that America during the late colonial period (1680-1776) rapidly developed a variegated culture that displayed distinctive traits of modern America, among them vigorous religious pluralism, bewildering ethnic diversity, tremendous inequalities of wealth, and a materialistic society with pervasively commercial values. Butler reviews the growth in population during this last half of the colonial period: while most settlers in 1680 were of English origin, by 1776 the British colonies were populated by a polyglot population of peoples from the British Isles, continental Europe, and Africa, as well as the indigenous Indian population. At the same time the population diversified and the economy changed in complex ways: the period saw such diverse developments as rapid growth in artisan and craft skills, the development of a large middle class, the growth of professional classes, widespread urbanization with attendant poverty, and the institutionalization of African slavery, formerly a sporadic practice not easily distinguishable from indentured servitude. The colonials developed democratic political institutions of surprising vigor, especially provincial and local assemblies, while royal governors were mostly irrelevant and sometimes incompetent. Frontier wars with France reinforced cultural andpoliticaldifferences with Britain while forging a sense of shared American nationhood that resulted in the Revolutionary movement. A sweeping, well-researched analysis of the transformative changes wrought by immigration, war, and cultural change in colonial America.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674000919
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.43 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Butler is the William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History, and Professor of Religious Studies, at Yale University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Peoples 8
2 Economy 50
3 Politics 89
4 Things Material 131
5 Things Spiritual 185
6 1776 225
Notes 251
Acknowledgments 312
Index 315
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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Becoming America

    Excellent readable history of the colonization of the thirteen colonies up to the revolution.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Readable and very well done

    In this gracefully written book, Jon Butler in Becoming America ¿traces the enormous social, economic, political, and cultural changes that created a distinctively modern and, ultimately, ¿American¿ society in Britain¿s mainland colonies between 1680 and 1770.¿ (2) With straightforward prose refreshingly free of jargon, Butler shows that the American colonies developed into surprisingly modern entities by the eve of the Revolution. In separate chapters, he details five major characteristics of American modernity in support of this claim: ethnic and national diversity; complex economies; ¿large-scale participatory politics¿; religious pluralism; and ¿the modern penchant for power, control, and authority¿ over both their environment and other human beings. This change from primitive 17th century outposts of Britain¿s colonial empire to ¿complex and variegated¿ (3) colonies by the mid 18th century is what Butler terms the ¿Revolution before 1776.¿ By 1770, America was anything but a homogeneous society in terms of its population, particularly when compared to Europe. Butler notes that Indians and Europeans ¿lived side by side¿ (15) in most rural areas of the colonies. Religious, economic and cultural strife forced many in Europe to immigrate to the British mainland colonies, while after 1680 the American colonies ¿became a haven for non-English Europeans.¿ (20) Butler points to a variety of newcomers¿Jews, Scots-Irish, French Huguenots, Germans and Swiss¿who settled all over America to make the New World a mix of ethnic groups, which ¿predicted the growing importance of ethnicity in America¿ which continues to the present. (25) Butler also details the ¿horrific suffering¿ of Africans, forced to America by the burgeoning slave trade at the end of the 17th century. Writing sensitively about the plight of these enslaved blacks, he also notes that their influx ¿recast the seventeenth-century colonies and [became] the American future.¿ (36) Not only was America¿s population diverse, so was its religious composition. ¿Colonial American religion,¿ Butler concludes, was ¿varied and rich between 1680s and the American Revolution.¿ (185) This ¿religious pluralism and vitality,¿ far more extensive than was characteristic of Europe, has been ¿identified as the very soul of modern American culture¿ he concludes. Butler also points to ministers like George Whitefield as being modern, in their celebrity status, individualism and ¿nondenominational, media-conscious[ness].¿ Butler points to the diverse and complex economies of the British colonies in America as evidence of their modernity, though he is careful not to ignore the growing poverty and inequality in New World.. Colonists ¿took command¿ of their commercial life and shaped it into a ¿notably autonomous economy,¿ (51) especially in their agricultural pursuits, in which farming became more commercial after the 1680s. This new emphasis on the market was accompanied by diversification. Similarly, Butler shows that native Americans too ¿became enmeshed in complex and powerful economic relationships¿ with Europeans in the colonies. (67) Merchants won ¿wealth and status¿ through expansion, extension and specialization,¿ (69) all of which demonstrate for Butler that colonial economics were modern and complex. Colonial politics, Butler concludes, were ¿so complex that they often baffled observers.¿ (90) Provincial politics, while not democratic, were popular and included that formation of ¿political groups that sometimes assumed almost modern, partylike appearances,¿ (96) such as the Quaker party which emerged in Pennsylvania in the 1740s. America after 1680 became less deferential and became a ¿more open, ultimately democratic nation.¿ (99) Butler also points to the maturation of provincial assemblies after 1680 and the expansion of their power to demonstrate an increasing modernity of colonial politics. In Becoming America, Jon Butler has convincingly depicted Britis

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