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Publications Overview


Mastering Charleston:
Property and Patriarchy in British-Occupied Charleston, 1780–82
By Lauren Duval

During the occupation of Charleston in the American Revolution, the British army attempted to subdue rebellious inhabitants through property confiscation—a strategy that had particular resonance in Charleston’s slave society. British policies that manipulated property were irrevocably bound up in the broader power relations of revolutionary Charleston. By making white men’s control of property contingent upon their allegiance to the crown, British policies aimed at furthering military objectives subverted notions of mastery and dependence. Both deliberately and implicitly undercutting the power of elite white Charlestonians and unsettling patriarchal norms, British confiscation policies were, in many ways, in tension with Charleston’s established property regimes and associated notions of elite mastery. Additionally, the army’s disruptions to the city’s social order allowed enslaved people to further destabilize Charleston’s racial and gender order during the occupation. The British occupation of Charleston thus upended social hierarches in the city, even as it attempted to reestablish imperial order. The experience in Charleston reveals how contests over property, both real and personal, and the accompanying manipulation of and contestation over racial and gender power relations offer a productive means of understanding the American Revolution’s power dynamics.

“A Very Promising Appearance”:
Credit, Honor, and Deception in the Emerging Market for American Debt, 1784–92
By Tom Cutterham

Eighteenth-century merchants relied on interlinked notions of credit and honor to help them predict and control the behavior of others and thus conduct business profitably. Some accounts of commercial growth during this period give prominence to this form of institutional self-regulation. Yet while merchants were keen for others to perceive their business as self-regulating and their behavior as controlled by a strict code of honor, their private actions did not necessarily live up to this ideal. Daniel Parker was one of many merchants working between New York, London, and Amsterdam as a broker in the public debts of the new American state and federal governments from 1784 to 1792, but letters retained by his friend and partner Andrew Craigie provide insight into how he conducted his business. Far from being bound by the mercantile code of honor, Parker regularly flouted its rules. He manipulated flows of information, deliberately deceiving trading partners, in order to eke out a commercial advantage. Moreover, he was no exceptional case, at least within the emerging transatlantic finance market of the late eighteenth century. His story therefore demands a reassessment of the institutions and networks underpinning commercial capitalism.

Native Views of Native Languages: Communication and Kinship in Eastern North America, ca. 1800–1830
By Sean P. Harvey

Although language families (such as Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Muskogean) have become familiar to early Americanists, scholars have yet to examine Native ideas about linguistic relationships as historically constructed categories. Sitting at the crossroads of work on Native identities and affiliations, indigenous communication networks, and Native traditions and histories, this article draws upon evidence from indigenous lexicons, descriptions of spoken language, and commentary on the origins of linguistic differences found in Native-authored texts and white-recorded ethnographies (such as those of Charles Trowbridge). Early nineteenth-century Delaware, Haudenosaunee, Cherokee, Creek, and diverse Central Algonquian accounts show that sometimes Native speakers pointed to language as indicative of shared ancestry; at other moments, however, they perceived it as merely a medium of communication subject to present relationships. Ultimately, groups and individuals could use shared speech, varying intelligibility, or utter difference to draw inclusive or exclusive kinship lines for strategic purposes that included either ethnic demarcation or alliance building among peoples. The striking diversity of these views in eastern North America in the space of thirty years should prod scholars to move beyond the use of linguistic categories as transhistorical ethnic labels and attend to how Native people experienced and expressed linguistic relationships in specific contexts.

Sources and Interpretation
An Unknown Manuscript on the Terror, Attributed to Thomas Paine
By Adam Lebovitz

In the Archives nationales in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, there is a dossier with the following label: “Manuscript for publication of the reflections of Thomas Paine (English member of the Convention) on the French Revolution.” The date is given as 1825. And below the title there is an additional note: “probably never published because unfinished.” What follows is a French-language text of 195 pages, in highly legible script and with a sophisticated editorial apparatus that includes footnotes supplementing and occasionally contradicting the author. It purports to be, and appears to be, an unknown text by Thomas Paine on the French Revolution and the beginnings of the Terror, written in 1793 and recopied in 1825 in preparation for a first printed edition. This article explores the provenance of the manuscript, sketches its contents, and situates it in relation to both Paine’s oeuvre and the volatile political atmosphere of 1793.

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