Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943

Uncommon Sense

The following is from the Uncommon Sense archives. It first appeared in the Fall 2004 issue, no. 119.

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Honor Due

The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians awarded Jane T. Merritt Honorable Mention, Berkshire First Book Prize, 2004, for At the Crossroads: Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700–1763.

On the Grand Banks

Landing on the fall list is Peter Pope’s Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century. This book is an eloquent and historically significant study of North Atlantic economies and societies in the early modern era. Combining innovative archaeological research with historical analysis, Pope brings to life “a colony of English . . . without government ecclesiastical or civil who live by catching fish” (1680). Focusing on the 1620s to the 1690s, the saga of three generations of the Kirke family provides a narrative line connecting social and economic developments on the English shore with the rise of metropolitan merchants, royal politics, proprietary rivalry, the Atlantic economy, other colonial ventures, and French competition. By its very uniqueness, recognized at the time, the seventeenth-century Newfoundland plantation opens new perspectives about proprietary colonies, the role of planters and economic projectors, migratory labor, and the transatlantic ebb and flow of capital in the formation of colonial societies. Considered then and now as inconsequential, the permanent Newfoundland settlements that grew up around the exchanges of fish for wine were, in fact, a crucial hub in an extensive multinational commercial and social network connecting with the West Country of England, Ireland, the Continent, the Mediterranean, and New England. From the vantage point of Ferryland, Pope establishes the centrality of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic to the expansion of the commercial world.

In Due Season

Coming to the spring conferences will be By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority by Holly Brewer. Focusing on the legal status of children between the mid-sixteenth and the early nineteenth century, Brewer examines the changing meanings of consent and the ability to reason in reconfiguring authority over the course of the Anglo-American revolutions.

The Past in the Present

The distinguishing marks of the historical profession are that its members trade in the past and deal in the article and book. Embedded in research and ensconced in scholarly apparatus, most monographs are assumed to find their audience among fellow academics, libraries, and students. Yet, academic historians at their best strive to recover a past that reveals some insight into invisible power structures, disappeared lives, and lost worlds of meaning. And such recoveries can and do connect with and illuminate heretofore unknown truths for individuals in their own lives, though historians—and editors—rarely have the pleasure of hearing about this.

Two recent Institute authors received proof that scholarly monographs can resonate with a readership beyond their own early American field. Anthony Parent and Jane Merritt shared with us communications from readers who found in Foul Means and At the Crossroads new understanding about their own personal histories.

Parent analyzed in Foul Means the calculated moves on the part of an emerging great planter class in Virginia at the turn of the eighteenth century to consolidate power through large landholdings and the enslaved labor to make them productive. This March, Parent heard from J. Kirk Fitzhugh, a descendant of one of those great planters, who informed him,

“I recently purchased your book, Foul Means, and wanted to tell you that it has made for very fascinating reading. As a great great great great great grandson of William Fitzhugh (1651–1701), it was illuminating to see his place in colonial Virginia society with regard to the development of slavery. I visited his grave at his home in Eagle’s Nest last October at a reunion of his descendants. Your book places in a new perspective my sense of the land he owned. Even my great grandfather, Dr. Thaddeus Fitzhugh (1835–?), spoke of his ‘personal servant,’ a black slave by the name of Peter, who accompanied him during his service in the Confederacy’s 5th Virginia Cavalry. Your book has so enlightened me to a part of my family’s history about which I knew little.”

In At the Crossroads, Merritt depicted the mingling of native American communities and Euramericans on the early-to-mid-eighteenth-century Pennsylvania frontier, culminating in the Seven Years’ War and resulting in racialized animosities by the war’s end. Merritt received an email this April that, as she said, poignantly and “perfectly illustrates the kind of racial intimacy/enmity that abounded on [the] PA frontier.” The sites of contact and conflict in her book are part of her correspondent Gary Stone’s quotidian experience. He wrote,

“I’m a 61 year old social worker living in Lehigh County. On my commute to work, I drive through Weaversville, the site of Hay’s Spring. I visit the Moravian settlement in Bethlehem frequently (my physicist son did his undergrad work at Moravian College).

“About 20 years ago, I learned that I had a Shawnee Great-Great Grandmother. Her family lived in the Easton area, and she eventually settled in Drums, Pa., near Cunningham. She married my Great-Great Grandfather, Roth, whose Great Grandfather was killed by Indians (I believe Iroquois) in 1755 near Saylorsburg, in the Blue Mountains just north of Easton. I very much enjoyed your book, and will share it with some of my Cousins who have an interest in our genealogy. You brought the period alive for me. You helped me understand why some relatives were proud of the Indian relatives, and others kept it a dark secret.

“Are some of us still Paxton Boys in our approach to ‘Others’?”

In response to a request that he allow his communication to appear in the Institute’s newsletter, he replied,

“I have sent for another copy of your book for a female cousin who has studied our family history. You can tell your editors, that we plan to review your book at lunch sometime next week. I have continued research about Pennsylvania Colonial Forts, and have visited at least five of our regional forts, and continue to take walks with my wife to Buckabucka (the Lehigh River Gap near Walnutport). Who knows how long this interest will continue as a result of reading your work! I found the footnotes very interesting, and I almost never read footnotes. . . .

“Incidentally, the other side of my mother’s family included the Rittenhouses, who left Germantown, and moved north through Northampton County, serving in the Revolutionary War, and later settled in the Cunningham Valley above Hazleton after the Cunningham Massacre. No wonder we didn’t acknowledge our Native American Heritage.”

Book Staff Additions

Mendy C. Gladden joined Book Publications in June as Assistant Editor. This is a newly created position that is full time and combines responsibilities in acquisitions and office management. Mendy completed her Ph.D. in early American literature at the University of Virginia in 2004. She matches wits with Gil Kelly, popular culture repertoire with Kathy Burdette, and politics with me. We await a photograph of her cat, Leon, to add to our pictorial montage of editorial cats.

We are also delighted to have Virginia L. Montijo return to Book Publications as Senior Project Editor. She is resuming her former duties in manuscript editing and is taking on additional responsibilities in the supervision of schedules and of editorial work. We knew Ginny was irreplaceable, and we welcome her back where she belongs.

The Price is Right

A number of current Institute books along with many other University of North Carolina Press titles are available at considerable savings in UNCP’s “Our Big Fall Sale.” Click here for more information.

Fredrika J. Teute,
Editor of Publications

All books are available from the University of North Carolina Press.

Prices given here are list price and 20 percent discounted price for Institute Associates. Please note below that asterisks indicate editions of titles that are available in UNCP’s current “Our Big Fall Sale,” in some instances for considerably less. However, only one discount can be applied, and sale prices are not available over the phone. Click here for more information.

  • Peter E. Pope, Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century. Cloth: $59.95 (Associates, $47.96); paper: $24.95 (Associates, $19.96).
  • Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804. Cloth: $55.00 (Associates, $44.00); paper: $22.50 (Associates, $18.00).
  • Theodore Dwight Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638. *Cloth: $49.95 (Associates, $39.96).
  • Anthony S. Parent, Jr., Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660–1740. Cloth: $49.95 (Associates, $39.96); *paper: $19.95 (Associates, $15.96).
  • Jane T. Merritt, At the Crossroads: Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700–1763. *Cloth: $39.95 (Associates, $31.96); paper: $19.95 (Associates, $15.96).
  • Charles F. Hobson, ed., The Papers of John Marshall, Vol. XI: Correspondence, Papers, and Selected Judicial Opinions, April 1827–December 1830. *Cloth: $70.00 (Associates, $56.00).
  • James F. Brooks, Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands. *Cloth: $59.95 (Associates, $47.96); paper: $22.50 (Associates, $18.00).
  • Colin Wells, The Devil and Doctor Dwight: Satire and Theology in the Early American Republic. Cloth: $59.95 (Associates, $47.96); *paper: $24.95 (Associates, $19.96).
  • New and Recent Paperback Editions
  • Jackson Turner Main, The Antifederalists: Critics of the Constitution, 1781–1788 (1961), with a New Foreword by Edward Countryman. *Paper: $19.95 (Associates, $15.96).

Order from Teresa Shoffner, UNCP, 116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2288. For credit card orders by phone: (800) 848-6224; by fax: (800) 272-6817. Associates should specify their Associate membership for discount. Please add $5.00 postage/handling for first book, $1.00 for each additional book. North Carolina residents should add 6.5% sales tax.