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Citizen Bachelors: Manhood and the Creation of the United States 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801447884
ISBN-10: 0801447887
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Many single men in eighteenth-century England and America faced heavy, discriminatory taxation, but rather than obliterating 'the solitary state,' such policies served instead to politicize bachelors and to draw them fully to the brink of citizenship. In Citizen Bachelors, John Gilbert McCurdy writes the history of this remarkable development. His narrative is convincing, elegant, and often astonishing. He explores both the lived experiences of single men and the social construction of bachelorhood as a gendered identity. . . . McCurdy's narrative . . . makes a vital contribution to the study of early American manhood and masculinity. . . . Written in clear, uncluttered prose and offering rich rewards for scholars of gender, sexuality, the family, and the law, Citizen Bachelors should be singled out for careful reading."―Benjamin Irvin, H-SHEAR, H-Net Reviews, January 2010



"MCurdy has produced a valuable volume in this careful and highly readable inventory of early American bachelors and their cultural representations. When combined with the many related works on sexuality in this period, the book helps us understand a world long neglected and misrepresented. It is vital that we appreciate how different colonial society's cultural and sexual norms were from our own; the bachelor we recognize today was not known in early colonial North America. With this useful study, however, we can begin to see how this familiar figure first came into existence."―David D. Doyle, New England Quarterly, Spring 2009



"McCurdy succeeds brilliantly in showing how the legal standing of 'bachelors' changed over the course of the colonial and revolutionary eras. . . . Drawing enlightening comparisons between New England, the Chesapeake, and Pennsylvania, he is able to show how laws across the colonies were moving in a similar direction . . . [as they] collectively began to carve a space for adult single men in society. McCurdy also unearths some fascinating snapshots of the subjective experience of bachelorhood."―Rodney Hessinger, Men and Masculinities (December 2011)



"Although this book is about men, like the best new works on masculinity Citizen Bachelors repeatedly brings its subject into conversation with women's history."―William and Mary Quarterly



"John Gilbert McCurdy considers the political history of bachelors in all the colonies and over the course of the entire colonial period through the Revolutionary era. He makes use of all sorts of evidence, including statutes, popular literature, demographic data, and tax records. He describes a clear trajectory of the rise and fall of unequal treatment of bachelors in eighteenth-century America and persuasively suggests that this history is an important piece of the larger story of gender and democratic revolution. All scholars of early American manhood as well as of gender and citizenship should read this engaging book."―C. Dallett Hemphill, Ursinus College, author of Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America



"Citizen Bachelors is a good read: lucid, concise and compelling. John Gilbert McCurdy's insightful study of unmarried young men and never-married men is an important and original contribution to our knowledge of personal identity, family, and legal status in early America."―Susan E. Klepp, Temple University, coeditor of Infortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, An Indentured Servant

From the Back Cover

"John Gilbert McCurdy considers the political history of bachelors in all the colonies and over the course of the entire colonial period through the Revolutionary era. He makes use of all sorts of evidence, including statutes, popular literature, demographic data, and tax records. He describes a clear trajectory of the rise and fall of unequal treatment of bachelors in eighteenth-century America and persuasively suggests that this history is an important piece of the larger story of gender and democratic revolution. All scholars of early American manhood as well as of gender and citizenship should read this engaging book."-C. Dallett Hemphill, Ursinus College, author of Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801447887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801447884
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,408,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is honestly one of the best books focusing on colonial masculinity that I've read. The author gives great insight into what life was truly like for the nation's early bachelors. The colonial period is the works primary focus, however later periods are also briefly explored. The author does a great job of examining bachelor laws throughout the colonies, and elucidates how these laws either restricted or enhanced the lives of our early bachelors. While bachelors are the focus of this book, the roles of colonial women are also explored. This book is a must have for anyone interested in masculinity or gender studies.
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The author of this book repeatedly uses the word "liminal". I had not previously encountered this word, and I had to quickly find an unabridged dictionary. Having said that, I cannot find one other negative comment to make about this excellent study in early American social history. Most books about the Colonial Era focus on the struggle of the European powers to control North America and on the growing dissatisfaction of the colonists with British rule. Professor McCurdy delves into the lives of average Americans. He not only highlights the high percentage of indentured servants in American society, but also uncovers the fact that the high death rate of the era prevented almost half of this class from ever becoming free men.

The theme of the book is the gradual acceptance by American society that single men were citizens in good standing too. Unfortunately the rights of women were unknown until the 20th century. The traditions of Western Civilization from the time of the Roman Republic had been to include marriage as a requirement for membership in society. The early Colonial governments went even further with criminal penalties and exotic taxes on single men. Professor McCurdy's story of how and why this all changed in America is an exciting one and is based on solid research. The results of this acceptance by society were dramatic. James Madison, while still a single man, would become the "Father of the Constitution". James Buchanan, who never married, would become the 15th President of the United States. Anyone with a serious interest in American social history, the Colonial Era, or in the history of civil rights should include this book on their reading list.

Cultural conservatives will always demand universal marriage no matter what. The story of how and why the majority of Americans came to a better mind about this subject is well worth telling.
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I am prejudice about this book, my son wrote it. He does offer a crediable, and insightful view of single men from the early years of the United States and their contribution to the country politicially and socially.
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Independent men who have mastery, that is, the capability to live by themselves, having a profession that allows them to support themselves and their desired proclivities, and sufficient self control to exercise their powers discreetly, with prudence, restraint, and in accordance with the plans they have made and follow to their satisfaction, would do well to peruse this book, and discover the historical antecedents of their current status in the United States.
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