Peoples of a Spacious Land: Families and Cultures in Colonial New England

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In this book about families--those of the various native peoples of southern New England and those of the English settlers and their descendants--Gloria Main compares the ways in which the two cultures went about solving common human problems. Using original sources--diaries, inventories, wills, court records--as well as the findings of demographers, ethnologists, and cultural anthropologists, she compares the family life of the English colonists with the lives of comparable groups remaining in England and of ...
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Overview

In this book about families--those of the various native peoples of southern New England and those of the English settlers and their descendants--Gloria Main compares the ways in which the two cultures went about solving common human problems. Using original sources--diaries, inventories, wills, court records--as well as the findings of demographers, ethnologists, and cultural anthropologists, she compares the family life of the English colonists with the lives of comparable groups remaining in England and of native Americans. She looks at social organization, patterns of work, gender relations, sexual practices, childbearing and childrearing, demographic changes, and ways of dealing with sickness and death.

Main finds that the transplanted English family system produced descendants who were unusually healthy for the times and spectacularly fecund. Large families and steady population growth led to the creation of new towns and the enlargement of old ones with inevitably adverse consequences for the native Americans in the area. Main follows the two cultures into the eighteenth century and makes clear how the promise of perpetual accessions of new land eventually extended Puritan family culture across much of the North American continent.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Main (history, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) has written a fine book about family life in early New England that joins a long list of distinguished studies on the topic. Her thorough account of these studies grounds her own work, a sophisticated addition that looks at sexuality, courtship, marriage, childbirth, child rearing, childhood itself, old age, and other related topics. What's different, however, is that Main has woven in descriptions of Native American family life, which she contrasts to English practice, thus augmenting the usual historical sources with anthropological research. Generations of historians have shunned comparison as an organizing technique, but Main uses it here to great effect, which makes for good history as well as good general reading. The focus, however, is mainly on English colonials, attention on Native Americans being less well developed. This skilled study is nevertheless a graceful, scholarly book. Recommended for large public and all academic libraries. Bonnie Collier, Yale Law Lib. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674006287
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Gloria L. Main is Professor of History, Emeritus, University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Table of Contents

1 Native New England 1
2 Newcomers 19
3 Taking the land 38
4 Sexuality, courtship, and marriage 62
5 Bearing and losing children 95
6 Childrearing and the experience of childhood 117
7 Youth and old age 156
8 Transitions : the Narragansetts 188
9 Transitions : the English 203
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