Catalogue


Becoming America [electronic resource] : the revolution before 1776 /
Jon Butler.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2000.
description
x, 324 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0674000919 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2000.
isbn
0674000919 (alk. paper)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
7843559
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 251-311) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Jon Butler is the William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History, and Professor of Religious Studies, at Yale University.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-02-21:
Historians have often argued that the colonies became "Europeanized" in the century before the American Revolution, but in his latest book, Yale historian Butler (Awash in a Sea of Faith) contends that we need to pay close attention to this slice of early American history. The decades in between the Puritan-dominated 17th century and the market-revolutionizing early 19th century were a formative period, he suggests, during which a distinctly "American" societyÄand, as Butler would have it, the first "modern" societyÄdeveloped. It was a culture "simultaneously aggressive and willful, materialistic as well as idealistic, driven toward authority and mastery." Butler examines the Americanizing process in the realms of politics, economics, religion and material culture. In the first chapter, "Peoples," Butler reminds readers that late colonial society was polyglot and diverseÄincluding Germans, French, Scots, Ibo, Ashanti, Yoruba, Catawba and Leni-Lenape. The rest of the book is marked by Butler's characteristic innovation. Regarding politics, for instance, he suggests that Americans were no longer harmoniously self-governing through the town meeting; it was the colony itself, rather than the local microcosm, that was the center of political life. Likewise, distinctly American decorative arts began to develop during these years: after 1680, the relatively simple public buildings of the 17th century were "replaced by far larger, more elaborate facilities." Butler's original analysis is important reading on 18th-century America; he shows that the colonies were developing distinct ways of spending, building, praying, decorating and politicking even thenÄa cultural revolution that anticipated the political revolution that was to follow. B&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2000-10-01:
Butler's study concentrates on the transformation of Britain's North American colonies between 1680 and 1770. It is Butler's thesis that during this period, these colonies were molding themselves into the first modern society. He points out that the settlers (not just British, but from throughout Europe) were developing an increasing fascination with both power and authority, largely as a result of the independent economy that was emerging. Butler argues that the transformation was twofold. On the one hand, the distinctive economy brought with it changes in polities, religion, and secular life. On the other hand "a new public and even private culture, simultaneously aggressive and willful, materialistic as well as idealistic, driven toward authority and mastery" was emerging. This book is not a general history of Colonial America, nor does it discuss the "American character." Butler sticks very closely to his point. The work has a wide variety of black-and-white illustrations. It is brief, crisply written, and faithful to the author's thesis, and carefully annotated with references and explanatory material. All levels. ; Coastal Carolina University
Reviews
Review Quotes
Butler divides his approach to the period into well- studied categories before considering the implications for the Revolutionary era. His chapters on "Peoples," "Economy" and "Politics" provide a helpful synthesis of recent historiography without the tedious name dropping that characterizes so much historiographical literature...Butler will prompt us all to think more clearly about the structural relationships that evolved during these years.
An engrossing, important book. It promises to provoke and inspire. Jon Butler's Becoming America is an ambitious examination of Britain's mainland North American colonies between 1680 and 1770. The scope of the book is really quite broad; it covers nearly a century of development across thirteen widely varying colonies, and considers six formidably large aspects of early American life: migration and settlement, politics, economics, religion, the material world, and the origins of the Revolution. Butler's book revolves around, and advances, a coherent, critical thesis: that 'the vast social, economic, political, and cultural changes' of this period 'created a distinctively 'American' society.' The surprise of the book is that this society was modern; indeed, as Butler claims, it was the world's 'first modern society.' The world Butler portrays in his often vivid, and always highly readable prose is an America of fantastic diversity, an America of many languages, different customs, and dissenting practices of piety. Butler's Becoming America is a world of bustling politics and economic revolutions.
In a thoughtful, erudite survey of colonial history, Butler traces the formation of many of America's modern social characteristics in the crucible of pre-Revolutionary society...Americans today think of the colonial period, if at all, as a time remote from modern America, in which society was unimaginably different from ours. Butler argues persuasively that America during the late colonial period (1680-1776) rapidly developed a variegated culture that displayed distinctive traits of modern America, among them vigorous religious pluralism, bewildering ethnic diversity, tremendous inequalities of wealth, and a materialistic society with pervasively commercial values...A sweeping, well-researched analysis of the transformative changes wrought by immigration, war, and cultural change in colonial America.
The decades in between the Puritan-dominated 17th century and the market-revolutionizing early 19th century were a formative period, [Butler] suggests, during which a distinctly 'American' society--and, as Butler would have it, the first 'modern' society--developed...Butler's original analysis is important reading on 18th-century America; he shows that the colonies were developing distinct ways of spending, building, praying, decorating and politicking even then--a cultural revolution that anticipated the political revolution that was to follow.
Writing in a deceptively simple style, Butler builds creatively on complex historiographical debates and masterfully synthesizes vast amounts of specialized research, both by himself and by others...Indeed, one of the book's great virtues is its accessibility, and both its exclusively American focus and its stress on concrete social processes contribute to the clarity and forcefulness of the account. By all reasonable measures, this is a highly successful synthesis that manages to be at once enjoyable and provocative.
In Becoming America, Jon Butler examines the less examined period of American colonial history from 1680 to 1770 to argue that distinctive traits of modern America were already in place...The book makes a strong case for the early modernity of American society, helps to delineate the evolution of American identity, and serves as a good overview for the period.
A terrific book, filled with human interest and the kind of detail that makes abstractions meaningful. A commendable weaving together of themes and materials from political history, social history, and cultural history. Butler offers us a firm foundation for further exploration.
In yet another provocative challenge to the conventional wisdom, Jon Butler argues for the 'modernity' of eighteenth-century America. He provides a lively and readable account of how transatlantic commerce, participatory politics, religious pluralism, and ethnic and racial diversity put colonials on the path to 'becoming Americans' during the decades before the Revolution.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, February 2000
Choice, October 2000
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Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Stressing the middle and late decades of the American colonial experience, and the importance of the middle and southern colonies as well as New England, this volume shows the vast revolutionary changes before 1776 among a variety of peoples.
Main Description
We must congratulate Butler for [bringing] under control (a] profusion of scholarship and [making] sense of it in fewer than 250 pages. His book is a tour de force ... Compelling and readable.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
Peoplesp. 8
Economyp. 50
Politicsp. 89
Things Materialp. 131
Things Spiritualp. 185
1776p. 225
Notesp. 251
Acknowledgmentsp. 312
Indexp. 315
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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