J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Latest Common-Place

The latest issue of Common-Place, the online history magazine, offers a lot of eighteenth-century reading.

My favorite is A. Roger Ekirch’s article on the 1728 Ireland-to-America kidnapping case that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and other, less remembered novels. What storyteller could resist characters like this?

A short, homely man of slight build with gray eyes and black eyebrows, he delighted in low pleasures, best expressed perhaps upon offering a servant employment. “If you come to live with me,” promised the baron, “you shall never want a shilling in your pocket, a gun to fowl, a horse to ride, or a whore” (the offer was accepted).
And this action:
Upon James’s flight in 1740—successfully absconding on his third attempt to run away—first to Philadelphia, then to Jamaica, to London, and finally to Ireland, his Uncle Richard, now the sixth Earl of Anglesea, repeatedly tried to have him killed.
In another article Molly McCarthy makes a case for the almanac, stretching a case that it was early America’s equivalent of an smartphone. I expect there were a lot of dropped calls.

Tara Bynum writes about Phillis Wheatley's relationship to books and writing, inspired by modern students’ impatience with the “complacency” of African-American writers of the 1700s.

Among the book reviews are:
  • Margot Minardi on Douglas R. Egerton’s survey Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America.
  • Matthew Mason’s disappointed assessment of Peter A. Dorsey’s Common Bondage: Slavery as Metaphor in Revolutionary America.
  • Carol Faulkner on Susan Klepp’s study of fertility and pregnancy-prevention, Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820. I just received a copy of this from the Omohundro Institute, and have looked only at the pictures—of which there are a lot.
A last book review going back to the 1600s: Ralph Bauer explores Walt Woodward’s eye-opening study of alchemy and magic in Connecticut, Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676.

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