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Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England
     

Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England

by J. M. Opal
 

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Beyond the Farm
National Ambitions in Rural New England
J. M. Opal

"Opal's book beautifully and uniquely captures an important moment when at least a few American men looked up from their plows toward a modern distant horizon, put them down, and walked toward it."--American Historical Review

"Opal convincingly takes the reader through the

Overview

Beyond the Farm
National Ambitions in Rural New England
J. M. Opal

"Opal's book beautifully and uniquely captures an important moment when at least a few American men looked up from their plows toward a modern distant horizon, put them down, and walked toward it."--American Historical Review

"Opal convincingly takes the reader through the transformations of ambition in rural New England as they intersected with the emergence of liberalism, capitalism, the nation, and modernity."--Journal of the Early Republic

"Through the lives of six 'ordinary' rural men who left their fathers' farms in search of something better, Jason Opal explains how ambition came to stand near the center of U.S. national character. Both a collective biography and a sweeping historical synthesis, Beyond the Farm sheds new light on the transformation of civil society and boldly revises our understanding of the emergence of capitalism."--Catherine E. Kelly, University of Oklahoma

During the first half-century of American independence, a fundamental change in the meaning and morality of ambition emerged in American culture. Long stigmatized as a dangerous passion that led people to pursue fame at the expense of duty, ambition also raised concerns among American Revolutionaries who espoused self-sacrifice. After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the creation of the federal republic in 1789, however, a new ethos of nation-making took hold in which ambition, properly cultivated, could rescue talent and virtue from the parochial needs of the family farm. Rather than an apology for an emerging market culture of material desire and commercial dealing, ambition became a civic project--a concerted reply to the localism of provincial life. By thus attaching itself to the national self-image during the early years of the Republic, before the wrenching upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, ambitious striving achieved a cultural dominance that future generations took for granted.

Beyond the Farm not only describes this transformation as a national effort but also explores it as a personal journey. Centered on the lives of six aspiring men from the New England countryside, the book follows them from youthful days full of hope and unrest to eventual careers marked by surprising success and crushing failure. Along the way, J. M. Opal recovers such intimate dramas as a young man's abandonment by his self-made parents, a village printer's dreams of small-town fame, and a headstrong boy's efforts to both surpass and honor his family. By relating the vast abstractions of nation and ambition to the everyday milieus of home, work, and school, Beyond the Farm reconsiders the roots of American individualism in vivid detail and moral complexity.

J. M. Opal is Associate Professor of History at McGill University.

Early American Studies
2008 | 280 pages | 6 x 9 | 18 illus.
ISBN 978-0-8122-4062-7 | Cloth | $55.00s | £36.00
ISBN 978-0-8122-2156-5 | Paper | $24.95s | £16.50
ISBN 978-0-8122-0345-5 | Ebook | $24.95s | £16.50
World Rights | American History

Short copy:

During the first half-century of American independence, a fundamental change in the meaning and morality of ambition emerged. Beyond the Farm blends biography, social history, and cultural history to describe and explain that change.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Through the lives of six 'ordinary' rural men who left their fathers' farms in search of something better, Jason Opal explains how ambition came to stand near the center of U.S. national character. Both a collective biography and a sweeping historical synthesis, Beyond the Farm sheds new light on the transformation of civil society and boldly revises our understanding of the emergence of capitalism."—Catherine E. Kelly, University of Oklahoma

"Opal's book beautifully and uniquely captures an important moment when at least a few American men looked up from their plows toward a modern distant horizon, put them down, and walked toward it."—American Historical Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812221565
Publisher:
University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date:
03/01/2011
Series:
Early American Studies Series
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

J. M. Opal is Associate Professor of History at McGill University.

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