Fierce communion : family and community in early America /
Helena M. Wall.
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1990.
x, 243 p. --
0674299582 (alk. paper)
More Details
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1990.
0674299582 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1990-12:
For 46 years, Edmund Morgan's seminal survey, The Puritan Family (1944), has served as the introduction to the Colonial American family. Now Wall has offered a worthy update. She reviews and thoughtfully distills the results of the massive research published in recent years on family and community before the Revolution. She adopts an anthropological approach to the organization of her material: successive chapters handle communal bonds, slander, marriage, and childrearing. In order to explore these topics in a unitary way across very different times and places, Wall treats the Colonial world as if it were essentially unchanging and static until the late 18th century. Then, to handle the elements of dynamism and change obviously present by the time of the Revolution, she is forced into an assertion of sudden or rapid shifts as the Colonial era closes (stated at chapter endings and explored in a lengthy afterword). She has moved commendably away from the often decried "New Englandization" of Colonial history with many examples drawn especially from the Chesapeake area as well as many other locations. For scholars, her 20-page listing of primary sources and 60 pages of rich notes will be a gold mine for pertinent American and European research. This a mature, often wise, and always thoughtful book that will stand at the center of Colonial family and community studies. Recommended for all libraries. -R. B. Lyman Jr., Simmons College
Review Quotes
A fascinating foray into the private and communal lives of colonial Americans...The power of Fierce Communion...does not lie in its explication of the decline of early American communal life, but in the portrayal of its interrelated components.
In this short and engagingly written book, Helena Wall draws on an impressive range of primary and secondary sources to illustrate 'the primacy of community' in the North American colonies before 1750.
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, December 1990
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Main Description
Helena Wall shows what life was like in colonial America, a culture where individuals and family were subordinated to the demands of the community. Using local town, church, and especially court records from every colony, she examines the division of authority between family and community throughout colonial America. Although this close relationship and its consequences for private life bred many tensions and conflicts, the premises and conditions of that interdependent association persisted even into the nineteenth century. Wall sketches the subsequent changes and outlines the new arrangements of family and community life as the colonies moved toward the formation of a new nation.

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