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The Shopkeeper's Millennium

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The Shopkeeper's Millennium. Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837
By Paul E. Johnson. 25th Anniversary Edition. (Hill & Wang - A Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2004. Pg. xx, 214. Maps, Tables, Illustrations, End Notes.) ISBN: 0-8090-1635-4.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 27, 2004

The Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 is a fascinating, perceptive social history of Rochester, New York. It was written by Paul E. Johnson, who is a professor of History at the University of South Carolina. Johnson is an astute social historian who has garnered a well-earned reputation as a writer of eminently readable history books that are both engaging and edifying. In this work, Johnson tackles what may seem, to non-academicians, to be a somewhat dry topic - the religious revival of the early 19th century that changed to fabric of American society.

On the contrary, The Second Great Awakening, as this revival came to be called, was as historically important as it was dynamic. This revival helped to spawn the anti-slavery movement and the temperance movement - to name just a couple of its 'biggest' impacts on American society. In this riveting narrative, Johnson explores the impact that this great revival had on the city of Rochester - morally, religiously, and economically.

The Shopkeeper's Millennium was first published in 1978, and Johnson's scholarship has aptly survived the test of time. This, the newly released 25th Anniversary Edition, is enhanced by the inclusion of a new preface by the book's author, which provides unique insights into what motivated him to write this book and the methodology that he employed. He also discusses the changes that have occurred in the field of social history and how he would have written the book, we're he writing it today.

An essential text for University courses in early American social and religious history, The Shopkeeper's Millennium also makes fascinating reading for general readers. Although an excellent community study of Rochester during the Second Great Awakening, this book does not present a comprehensive history of the religious movement. Rather it concentrates on how the movement affected all aspects of the city, from its politics to its social institutions and how these changes helped to change Rochester from a remote backwater into a bustling boomtown. In short, The Shopkeeper's Millennium is an imaginative, yet authoritative, social history of one American city during a turbulent and spirited period in American History.


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