Down and Out in Early America / Edition 1

Down and Out in Early America / Edition 1

by Billy G. Smith
     
 

ISBN-10: 0271023171

ISBN-13: 9780271023175

Pub. Date: 01/28/2004

Publisher: Penn State University Press

It has often been said that early America was the "best poor man’s country in the world." After all, wasn’t there an abundance of land and a scarcity of laborers? The law of supply and demand would seem to dictate that most early American working people enjoyed high wages and a decent material standard of living. Down and Out in Early America

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Overview

It has often been said that early America was the "best poor man’s country in the world." After all, wasn’t there an abundance of land and a scarcity of laborers? The law of supply and demand would seem to dictate that most early American working people enjoyed high wages and a decent material standard of living. Down and Out in Early America presents the evidence for poverty versus plenty and concludes that financial insecurity was a widespread problem that plagued many early Americans.

The fact is that in early America only an extremely thin margin separated those who required assistance from those who were able to secure independently the necessities of life. The reasons for this were many: seasonal and cyclical unemployment, inadequate wages, health problems (including mental illness), alcoholism, a large pool of migrants, low pay for women, abandoned families. The situation was made worse by the inability of many communities to provide help for the poor except to incarcerate them in workhouses and almshouses.

The essays in this volume explore the lives and strategies of people who struggled with destitution, evaluate the changing forms of poor relief, and examine the political, religious, gender, and racial aspects of poverty in early North America. Down and Out in Early America features a distinguished lineup of historians. In the first chapter, Gary B. Nash surveys the scholarship on poverty in early America and concludes that historians have failed to appreciate the numerous factors that generated widespread indigence. Philip D. Morgan examines poverty among slaves while Jean R. Soderlund looks at the experience of Native Americans in New Jersey. In the other essays, Monique Bourque, Ruth Wallis Herndon, Tom Humphrey, Susan E. Klepp, John E. Murray, Simon Newman, J. Richard Olivas, and Karin Wulf look at the conditions of poverty across regions, making this the most complete and comprehensive work of its kind.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271023175
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
01/28/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: "The Best Poor Man's Country"?
1Poverty and Politics in Early American History1
2Dead Bodies: Poverty and Death in Early National Philadelphia41
3Malthusian Miseries and the Working Poor in Philadelphia, 1780-1830: Gender and Infant Mortality63
4Slaves and Poverty93
5"Who Died an Expence to This Town": Poor Relief in Eighteenth-Century Rhode Island135
6Gender and the Political Economy of Poor Relief in Colonial Philadelphia163
7Poor Relief "Without Violating the Rights of Humanity": Almshouse Administration in the Philadelphia Region, 1790-1860189
8Bound by Charity: The Abandoned Children of Late Eighteenth-Century Charleston213
9Poverty and Politics in the Hudson River Valley235
10"God Helps Those Who Help Themselves": Religious Explanations of Poverty in Colonial Massachusetts, 1630-1776262
11The Delaware Indians and Poverty in Colonial New Jersey289
Contributors313
Index317

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