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The American Family in the Colonial Period

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The American Family in the Colonial Period
By Arthur W. Calhoun. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. 352.) ISBN: 0-486-43366-8.

Reviewed by Angela Evans - January 27, 2005
A Classic Study of Secual Codes, Marriage Traditions, and Family Roles and Status - The Family as an Economic, Educational, Moral, and Spiritual Institution - The Relations of the Family to the State, Indsutry, and Society (Subtitle from the Barnes & Noble's 1960, reprint of the 1917 edition of A Social History of the American Family, Vol. 1: Colonial Period.)
The American Family in the Colonial Period is a fascinating social history of early American life written by Arthur W. Calhoun. This text explores the European influences that affected American family life and how these influences were ameliorated over time as the colonist adapted to the new environments that they found themselves in. Calhoun was one of the first historians to have made a comprehensive study on the evolution of the American family and his compelling insights into how the cause-and-effect relationship between environment and the structure of the American family gave rise to the capitalist economic model and modern social theory.

Topics covered in this monumental work include marriage, community responsibilities, familiar control of money, family structure, gender roles, the status of women and children, education, religion, marital relations and obligations, slavery, and how the role of government changed over time in regard to how it impacted the family, such as via mandatory education laws. Throughout, Calhoun makes extensive use of primary and secondary source documents as he explores this fascinating aspect of American history. The text is primarily organized geographically, with sections dealing with family issues in New England, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, Pennsylvania, Southern Colonies, and the French colonies in the West.

This Dover edition of The American Family in the Colonial Period is an unabridged republication of the edition that was initially published by the Arthur H. Clark Company in 1917 under the title: A Social History of the American Family, Vol. 1: Colonial Period. This book has too long been out of print, and I'm delighted that Dover has elected to republish this important work. I hope that they will soon also reissue the other two volumes. (Volume two covers the period from the Revolution through the Civil War and Volume three covers the period from Reconstruction through World War I.) The American Family in the Colonial Period is ideal for both students of American History as well as those studying Sociology.


Related Reviews:

Mordecai: An Early American Family, by Emily Bingham.
In this work, Bingham provides a fascinating glimpse of Jewish life in America, from Colonial times through the Civil War.

Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800, by Ruth H. Bloch.
The origins of Anglo-American concepts about gender and morality are delineated in eight essays by a leading authority on feminist theory and history.

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