Declension of English Traditions in the New World Essay

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Colonial America BookNotes

John Putnam Demos
(1937-)
A Little Commonwealth:
Family Life in Plymouth Colony
NY: Oxford UP, 1970. xvi + 201 p. Ill.: 15 photos (btw. 108-09). Appendix: demographic tables (191-94). Bibliographical footnotes, index (195-201). ISBN: 0195128907 (1999 ed.)
Thesis:
"A familie is a little Church, and a little commonwealth, at least a lively representation thereof, whereby triall may be made of such as are fit for any place of authoritie, or of subjection in Church or commonwealth. Or rather it is as a schoole wherein the first principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned: whereby men are fitted to greater matters in Church or commonwealth." --- Epigraph by William Gouge, Of Domesticall
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A. Wrigley, but adapted to the American perspective transcending demography to encompass "experience," the values and emotions of the culture studied. Demos merges "micro-observations" gleaned from court records of conflict involving families in Plymouth Colony with "imaginative reconstruction of the spatial arrangement of the Old Colony houses and concludes that hostile impulses within the family, arising inevitably from frequent abrasion in congested conditions, were themselves inhibited but were eventually displaced outward in aggression toward neighbors." Demos' study reflects and develops that of Perry Miller, who merged intellectual and social history, but supplemented an intuitive perception for his evaluation. Bernard Bailyn, in The Origins of American Politics (1968), merged the study of political culture with structure and experience. Both Miller and Bailyn produced works with an elitist bias, which is corrected in community studies such as A Little Commonwealth by Demos. Philip Greven's Four Generations, a similar 1970 community study, finds unusual stability in Andover, Massachusetts, but Demos finds significant mobility in Plymouth…

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