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America at 1750: A Social Portrait Mass Market Paperback – January 12, 1973


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 12, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394717953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394717951
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.7 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

" A brilliant interpretation of Colonial society on the eve of the Revolution." --David Herbert Donald, Commentary

From the Publisher

" A brilliant interpretation of Colonial society on the eve of the Revolution." --David Herbert Donald, Commentary

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The brilliant historian Richard Hofstadter was working on this book when he died in 1970. In eight highly readable chapters he presents clear discussions of several areas of Colonial America, among them: the explosion in population, the diverse ethnicity, the world of white indentured servents, black slavery and its trade, along with a discussion of the predominant middle class life many enjoyed, and finishes with three fine chapters on Colonial religion and the Great Awakening. His mastery of his subject matter and the clarity of his writing is a joy. The Scotch-Irish, the German religious sects who were excellent farmers, the terrified blacks kidnapped and marched 550 miles to the coast and into slavery, the desperate white indentured servents selling themselves into virtual slavery for a time, the always extremely dangerous ocean crossings, the greedy-yet terrified slaveholders and the cruel slave codes they wrote, the relatively prosperous Americans, the coming of G! ! eorge Whitefield--America's most spectacular preacher, the religious schisms that the Great Awakening brought: all these stories are here. And all packed into a highly readable book. A pleasure to read. Thank you Professor Hofstadter.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By asphlex on December 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a magnificent work of historical imagination. Hofstadter's last book, it was what was to begin a much larger, possibly three volume epic on the social conditions of America at distinctive periods in our history. And while this book is missing the fuller vision of a more articulated society, the chapters that are present are truly alive with insight and understanding of the way things probably were. Here we see the slave trade not just from a one-sided arcadia, but from every side, from the profiteers and the oppressed, from the African kings selling their nation to the early-day abolitionists mildly arguing their case. We see the white slaves too, the pains and humiliations of indentured servitude to the hearts and minds of men believing themselves at the very least a step up from inhumanity.
Then there is the middle class of the pre-revolutionary colonies, filled with religious fanatics and patriotic zealots, all of them looking to make a buck. We see that this class formed the basic foundations of the nation to come and how the politicians of the day catered mostly to this hardly regal, far-reaching group of normal, everyday folks. This chapter, perhaps, gives the fullest picture of the society that was that went on to create the society we are today.
And then there is a long discussion of the church and the 'Great Awakening' that plundered through the minds of so many post-witch hunting citizens. These chapters explain the foundations that led not just to a seperation of church and state, but to the required need for religious diversity and how this principle, above all else, came to found our subsequent ideas on American freedom.
A glorious, neccessary book, it makes one mourn for this already celebrated historian and wonder what might have been (and regardless of that annoying cliche, one can't help but think in such basic praise dialect when finishing).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By snh on April 2, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I find it fascinating that this wonderful glimpse into our nation shortly before the American Revolution could be thought of as stuffy, boring and a waste of time. Hofstader, a brilliant and yet very human scholar, has offered us a wonderfully concise, compelling and illuminating read - a rare and precious gift to anyone wishing to examine the evolution of our nation. He has done all the work, not only allowing us to form our own conclusions from the facts rather than spoon-feeding us his unsubstantiated opinion, but has presented this vast amount of data in a breezy, very readable manner. The only explanation I could arrive at of how anyone could find this great book a waste of time is that these reviews are as much a reflection of the reviewer as the book under review.

Bravo Professor Hofstader. I regret that you did not live to complete your masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By I14 Screwdriver on January 26, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One of History's saddest events, I mean in the discipline of History, was the premature death of Richard Hofstader.
With this book, the last he wrote, not finishing it, he also was making a turn in his writing career. Most of his previous work was analytic social history, more like sociology than what the popular mind may consider as history. Although that work was excellent and he proved himself an accomplished essayist, with this one he proves he has an excellent touch with narrative history. He can still singe right through to the heart of what makes the period studied a period that, whatever our superficial technological guises, we still live in.
We have moved past slavery, which was so entrenched in American social structure in 1750. But the persistence with which Americans pursued slavery, as if they perceived it was the only way to build a nation and a new kind of nation, one built purely on self-interest, brings the reader to realize that the nation we live in now remains built on slavery. The vast semi-middle classes and lower classes remain slaves to their debased tastes, their lives must remain empty and out of their will's control so that their master's, the tiny set of property and power holders, may prosper and keep building, all for their own prospering only. At the same time, the masters tell these slaves it is all done for the glory of--back then it was "God," now it is sometimes "God" and sometimes everyday mammon.
Hofstadter also lets us see the centrality of religion in everyday American life at the same, another factor which has altered only superficially. If America continues to punish the flesh and look to some vague point in the future when God will make everything right, the precedence was there at 1750.
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