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Securing the Commonwealth: Debt, Speculation, and Writing in the Making of Early America
     

Securing the Commonwealth: Debt, Speculation, and Writing in the Making of Early America

by Jennifer J. Baker
 

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Securing the Commonwealth examines how eighteenth-century American writers—including Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, Royall Tyler, Charles Brockden Brown, and Judith Sargent Murray—understood the highly speculative financial times in which they lived. Spanning a century of cultural and literary life, this study shows how the era's literature

Overview

Securing the Commonwealth examines how eighteenth-century American writers—including Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, Royall Tyler, Charles Brockden Brown, and Judith Sargent Murray—understood the highly speculative financial times in which they lived. Spanning a century of cultural and literary life, this study shows how the era's literature commonly depicted an American ethos of risk taking and borrowing as the peculiar product of New World daring and the exigencies of revolution and nation building.

"An incisive new study... Baker conceptualizes her readings in pathbreaking ways."— American Literature

"A thought-provoking gem of a book... All historians and literary critics with an interest in eighteenth-century economic culture will want to read it."— William and Mary Quarterly

"Baker's argument is instructive and well founded."— Journal of American History

"Both a primer educating one into the financial thinking of early Anglo-America and a testament to the energy and creativity with which successive generations of provincials imagined commerce as a process of mediation."— Early American Literature

"Baker has written an incisive, provocative, sparkling book."— American Antiquarian Society

"Historically astute study."— Journal of the Early Republic

"Baker brings a fresh and critical eye to works already well-known to specialists but probably unfamiliar to historians in general."— Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Astute and surprisingly lively volume... Highly recommended."— Choice

Jennifer J. Baker is an assistant professor of English at New York University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Reviews

Choice

Astute and surprisingly lively volume... Highly recommended.

American Antiquarian Society

Baker has written an incisive, provocative, sparkling book.

American Literature

An incisive new study... Baker conceptualizes her readings in pathbreaking ways.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Baker brings a fresh and critical eye to works already well-known to specialists but probably unfamiliar to historians in general.

Early American Literature

Both a primer educating one into the financial thinking of early Anglo-America and a testament to the energy and creativity with which successive generations of provincials imagined commerce as a process of mediation.

Journal of American Studies - Peter Knight

In her elegant analysis of writings by Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, Royall Tyler, Charles Brockden Brown and Judith Sargent Murray, Jennifer Baker homes in on a mode of thinking in eighteenth-century America about debt, credit, speculation and paper money that is quite surprising.

William and Mary Quarterly - Toby L. Ditz

A thought-provoking gem of a book... All historians and literary critics with an interest in eighteenth-century economic culture will want to read it.

Journal of American History - Jonathan M. Chu

Baker's argument is instructive and well founded.

Journal of the Early Republic - Philip Gould

A historically astute study of the complex relations between economic culture and literary history in early America.

New England Quarterly - Max M. Edling

This is a work that attempts to break new ground. The topic is important but difficult and should be of great interest to historians, economists, and literary critics.

Modern Intellectual History - Edward Larkin

Securing the Commonwealth, with its insightful account... offers a cogent and eye-opening narrative of a long-overlooked dimension.

American Historical Review - Jody Greene

This book's virtue lies in its willingness not to belabor a point, as well as its extremely graceful way of offering correctives to existing readings... To finish an academic monograph wanting to read more is surely a good—and rare—thing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801879722
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
12/05/2005
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)

What People are Saying About This

Douglas Anderson

Baker makes a consistently intriguing case for the centrality of financial themes to the varied literary landscape of eighteenth-century America—drawing poems, autobiography, essays, drama, and prose fiction into a broad, cultural conversation that focuses on the risks and the necessity for 'credit' in both the economic and the imaginative construction of the United States. No other book that I can think of presents eighteenth-century American writing in this stimulating and promising context.

Jay Fliegelman

The first work to trace the literary and, more broadly, cultural consequences of debt, speculation, and paper money in early America. The debates and metaphorics surrounding these issues made it the center for discussions of value, social contract, moral character, and textual representation. Baker takes this rich node of issues and powerfully demonstrates its centrality to an array of texts. An important book.

Meet the Author

Jennifer J. Baker is an assistant professor of English at New York University.

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