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A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 25th Anniversary ed. Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809016358
ISBN-10: 0809016354
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is far more than a study of local history, and more even than a provocative interpretation of the social sources of religious revivalism. It is a brilliant pioneering assault upon the most important unaddressed problem in American historiography--how our society and very personalities were transformed by the rapid advance of the capitalist market in the earlier nineteenth century.” ―Charles Sellers, University of California, Berkeley

“Johnson's book is indispensable for any understanding of the evangelical revival and related reform movements in New York's 'burned-over' district. No less important, Professor Johnson has brilliantly fused the quantitative methods of the 'new social history' with a sparkling style and an imaginative reconstruction of social reality. Both in substantive conclusions and as a model for future regional studies, A Shopkeeper's Millennium is one of the freshest and most exciting books I have read in the past few years.” ―David Brion Davis, Yale University

About the Author

Paul E. Johnson, professor of history at the University of South Carolina, is co-author, with Sean Wilentz, of The Kingdom of Matthias. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and Onancock, Virginia.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 25th Anniversary ed. edition (June 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809016354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809016358
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
New York State's construction of the Erie Canal transformed the tiny frontier town of Rochester into young America's first inland boom town, with an economy based on milling local grain and transporting the flour east to feed the older coastal cities. In this role, it became the prototype for all the thousands of commercial towns and cities that sprang up along railroads across the Midwest during the nineteenth century, as well as the crucible in which the Midwest's particular brand of evangelical protestant piety was first worked out. 'A Shopkeeper's Millenium' is by far the best examination of this important piece of American history I have found anywhere, and I recommend it highly.
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Format: Paperback
A Shopkeeper's Millennium is in response to new interest in the Great Awakening. But while previous studies have explained the growth of multiple cities during this time period, Johnson's book focuses entirely on Rochester, arguing that it was "America's fist inland boom town" (33). A combination of factors, including improvements in inland transportation and prime geographical location, made Rochester an ideal place for opportunity and social mobility, according to Johnson. His book utilizes many rags to riches stories that effectively demonstrate how farmers started to become businessmen, which increased their revenues (16). One example is Johnson's illustration of how two of the ten richest men in 1827 Rochester grew up in poverty (28). The promise of rags to riches experiences led to an increase in migration from those seeking to advance their economic status, and Johnson discusses how this increased influenced and changed people's relationships, especially as citizens were constantly moving. With all of this social upheaval, Johnson argues, many turned to the churches for stability. With this milieu of social forces came the emergence of distinct social classes and pronounced party politics. Ultimately, Rochester offers a rich account of how these classes and party politics operated in early 19th century New York.

This book effectively explains how party politics emerged in response to the newly distinct social classes. According to Johnson, social classes started to become distinct after 1825. Johnson believes this happened because some of the middle class started to move away from their businesses and into side streets while the working class started to live in their own residential areas.
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Format: Paperback
Paul Johnson's highly readable case study of Finney-inspired revivals in Rochester argues that these revivals were a response to the breakdown of social relationships involving work. His research finds that the revivals converted the relatively stable entrepreneurial class of Rochester who had recently abandoned former traditional employer-employee relationships where the employee boarded within the home of the employer. The revival legitimized this abandonment (and the resulting free labor system) by emphasizing the individual's moral freedom. Furthermore, the revival united the entrepreneurial class behind a mission-oriented Protestantism that enabled them to assert economic pressure, and a measure of social control, over the working class. While clearly sympathetic to the working class perspective, Johnson does not create a Protestant hegemonic conspiracy where none existed. Although one may dissent from his fundamental assumptions and approach, Johnson's argument is quite effective within the framework he has set for himself. I recommend this work to students of religion and society and antebellum reform.
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Through patient research (six years in the making) and profound interpretation Paul E. Johnson has composed a small, but masterful, account of how the rising bourgeois class of Rochester, New York shaped its budding culture around religious action within the tsunami of pre-industrialism that was flooding American mill and manufacturing towns during the early nineteenth century. Taking Rochester as a representative microcosm of the new capitalist paradigm that was sweeping the new nation, A Shopkeeper's Millennium dissects the roots, causes, changes, and outcomes that occurred during 1815 to 1837 that paved the way to a new dominant culture where old paternalistic norms for social control gave in to devout religious internalization. Johnson's thesis centers around the climatic role that the Rochester religious revival of 1831 played in converting not only individuals first, but in the aftermath, Rochesterian society as a whole. The Rochester revival of 1831 played a! ! vital role in the Second Great Awakening. Rochester was the pivotal point in Charles Gradison Finney's rise to fame. As Peter Worsley in his book, The Trumpet Shall Sound, discovered that "charisma provides `more than an abstract ideological rationale...It is a legitimation grounded in a relationship of loyalty and identification in which the leader is followed simply because he embodies values in which the followers have an interest.'" Through Finney's charisma, converted Rochesterians; many being the master workmen or manufacturers; took the proverbial "bull by the horns" and ran with their new found paradigm--a paradigm that justified, through religious conversion, the acts that one social class should dominate another for economic gain. Prior to the 1831 revival, social construction in Rochester was quite different.
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