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Sexual Revolution in Early America (Gender Relations in the American Experience) Hardcover – April 5, 2002
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According to this meticulously researched study, the Puritan roots of America's sexual mores are deep and surprisingly complex... Godbeer utilizes an impressive array of sources, from private writings, print, and ephemeral materials to court depositions, didactic literature, and official documents for his original research. The result is a valuable contribution to American social history.(Library Journal)
Colonial history will never quite be the same. Sexual Revolution in Early America is the most thorough compendium of sexual incidents, attitudes, laws, and literature in British America before 1800.... This work will be the central reference point for our understanding of sexuality in early America for many years to come. The book has much to offer both the casual and the thoughtful reader.(Evan Haefeli Washington Times)
Godbeer offers a fresh view of the 'moral and cultural architecture' of early America and the American Revolution through his analysis of sexual mores and behavior... Godbeer's readings are important to readings of early American captivity narratives... [and] has clear implications for feminist literary scholars and queer theorists who focus on questions of agency and transgression.(Lisa M. Logan Early American Literature)
Important... Godbeer pays meticulous attention to the details of cultural meaning and practice... The book's regional and chronological range is impressive... and the author's facility with such a wide variety of sources touching on typically private and thus seemingly inaccessible matters might serve as a model for scholars.(Elizabeth Reis New England Quarterly)
Richard Godbeer challenges our traditional stereotypes of colonial America by recovering a remarkable volume of sexual discussion and debate, prosecution and evasion... In both their sexual excesses and anxieties, Godbeer's colonists seem surprisingly modern and accessible.(Alan Taylor New Republic)
Richard Godbeer's book on sexuality in colonial British America has been eagerly awaited by those of us who had heard or read parts of this project in conference papers or articles. Those presentations had been filled with fresh insight and careful research. His full study has lived up to its promise. His careful, nuanced study is by far the best discussion of colonial sexuality available to scholars. While not slighting discussions of theory, Godbeer has avoided opaque jargon and balanced the theory with vignettes that bring the period and its people to life.(Joan R. Gundersen H-Women, H-Net Reviews)
The first comprehensive history of sexuality in early America. It is based on daunting archival scholarship, particularly in legal records, and attention to the details of social life, but is written with such verve and humanity that many of the personages the author considers here come alive off the page. Many of the sexual dramas Godbeer relates will seem familiar to the modern reader: adulterous lovers, the sexual experimentation of youth, the shame of vice revealed for all to see. But early American society was far more densely leavened with the yeast of Puritanism and moral surveillance than America of the 21st century, so that the contrasts with contemporary sexuality emerge in striking fashion.(Robert A. Nye Journal of the American Medical Association)
An astute, wide-ranging analysis... This is an excellent piece of scholarship. Based on extensive research in all sorts of printed sources and private documents, and covering much of the territory of British North America, it will likely remain the most detailed treatment of the subject for years to come.(Douglas A. Sweeney Religious Studies Review)
Readers under the misapprehension that the sexual revolution was one of the many new movements that changed the US in the 1960s should run to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of Godbeer's Sexual Revolution in Early America. Taking his cue from the numerous historians who have researched and written on the new social history of early America, Godbeer mined innumerable primary and secondary sources to create an accurate portrayal of sex in Colonial America... An excellent narrative of life in early America.(Choice)
Godbeer's holistic approach to early American sexual attitudes makes this study fresh. His knowledge of Puritan sexual mores informs his lovely reading of the sensuality of Puritan spirituality and illuminates Puritan sexual subjectivity.(Kathleen Brown American Historical Review)
Sexual Revolution in Early America does bring our focus back to the most basic aspect of human behavior, and it does so in the proper and revealing context of social relations. It also adds a new dimension to the strain of early American historiography that emphasizes the persistence of English folk beliefs.(Daniel R. Mandell Journal of American History)
Drawing on and synthesizing an impressive array of scholarly and archival sources, Godbeer reconstructs an early American sexual geography that is best characterized, not by a topography of liberation and repression, but by divisions along three overlapping axes of power... The payoff in Sexual Revolution in Early America lies in the details.(Bruce Burgett William and Mary Quarterly)
This is a landmark study of early modern sexual attitudes and behavior; it is eloquently written; and it is an important contribution to a growing body of scholarship on early American sexuality... Once again he [Godbeer] proves to be a master at distinguishing between the thoughts and desires of social eleites and the urges and behavior of ordinary folk.(Debra Meyers Register of the Kentucky Historical Society)
Richard Godbeer has crafted a well-woven narrative on the ever popular and riveting subject of human sexuality... Sexual Revolution in Early America will stand as a foundational text for the history of sexuality in early American studies.(Janet Moore Lindman Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography)
Sexual Revolution in Early America is the most comprehensive study of colonial sexuality to date. Scholars, students, and general readers alike will find much to interest them here. Godbeer describes a remarkably varied pattern of sexual theory and practice in British North America, detailing both regional differences and change over time.(Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University)
Godbeer's is the first serious assessment of the role of sex in Puritan thought and behavior.(Edmund S. Morgan New York Review of Books)
About the Author
Richard Godbeer is a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside.
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Godbeer shows that the sexuality of early Americans was far more complex than the barren stereotypes suggest.