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Tobacco culture : the mentality of the great Tidewater planters on the eve of Revolution /
T.H. Breen.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1985.
xvi, 216 p. : ill.
0691047294 (alk. paper) :
More Details
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1985.
0691047294 (alk. paper) :
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
T. H. Breen is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University. He has held the Pitt Professorship at Cambridge University and the Harmsworth Professorship at Oxford University
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1985-12:
Why did Virginia's great Tidewater planters figure so prominently in the movement for independence? A good part of the reason, according to Breen, is found in the values of personal honor and autonomy that the tobacco planters' culture promoted. Growing indebtedness to English merchants, which threatened such values, made many especially susceptible to ``Radical Country thought.'' Rejecting the purely economic interpretation of the Progressive historians, and going beyond the ``idealist'' explanation of Bernard Baylin, Breen skillfully details the ``complex interplay between ideology and experience.'' A rich, balanced, and judicious work that breaks new ground in the study of the American Revolution. For informed laypersons and scholars. Roy H. Tryon, Delaware State Archives, Dover (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 1986-03:
Led by a talented and sophisticated gentry, Virginia leaders exhibited a style and brilliance in political matters that were virtually unequalled in the other English colonies. At the heart of the Virginia political system was a genuine concern for both virtue and liberty that prevented the ruling gentry from becoming a closed corporation. Breen focuses upon the unique role that tobacco cultivation played in contributing to the outlook of the tidewater planters. He argues that personal autonomy was the core value of the ``tobacco society.'' Breen does not believe that a particular agrarian mentality caused the Revolution; he suggests, rather, that Virginia planters believed the economic system resulting from tobacco culture threatened their individual independence. Crisis helped to crystallize a political ideology in the colony. Breen concludes that when Alexander Hamilton brought forth schemes for funding the debt of the new Republic it was not surprising that Jefferson, a Virginian, led the agrarians in revolt. Based upon careful scholarship, the book offers an interesting projection of current interpretation. For all university, college, and major public libraries. Advanced secondary school students would also profit from access to the book.-R.M. Jellison, Miami University, Ohio
Review Quotes
"Breen writes clearly and argues well. . . . Tobacco Culture is enjoyable."-- Allen Boyer, New York Times
"T. H. Breen's important new book attempts to explain why the great Virginia Planters embraced the Revolutionary cause with so much enthusiasm. He argues that growing indebtedness to British merchants after 1750 jeopardized the planters' traditional dominance, finally precipitating 'a major cultural crisis' in the years immediately preceding Independence. Breen's major contribution is to delineate the 'mentality' of the great planters of the period when private and public distress converged. . . . It is a superb contribution to the literature of the American Revolution."-- Peter S. Onuf, William and Mary Quarterly
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, December 1985
Choice, March 1986
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
The great Tidewater planters of mid-eighteenth-century Virginia were fathers of the American Revolution. Perhaps first and foremost, they were also anxious tobacco farmers, harried by a demanding planting cycle, trans-Atlantic shipping risks, and their uneasy relations with English agents. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and their contemporaries lived in a world that was dominated by questions of debt from across an ocean but also one that stressed personal autonomy. T. H. Breen's study of this tobacco culture focuses on how elite planters gave meaning to existence. He examines the value-laden relationships--found in both the fields and marketplaces--that led from tobacco to politics, from agrarian experience to political protest, and finally to a break with the political and economic system that they believed threatened both personal independence and honor.
Table of Contents
List Of Illustrationsp. ix
Preface To The Second Paperback Editionp. xi
Prefacep. xxv
Acknowledgementsp. xxix
An Agrarian Context for Radical Ideasp. 3
Tobacco Mentalityp. 40
Planters and Merchants: A Kind of Friendshipp. 84
Loss of Independencep. 124
Politicizing the Discourse: Tobacco, Debt and the Coming of Revolutionp. 160
Epilogue: A New Beginningp. 204
Indexp. 211
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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