Society and Economy in Colonial Connecticut

Society and Economy in Colonial Connecticut

Jackson Turner Main
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 412
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  • Book Info
    Society and Economy in Colonial Connecticut
    Book Description:

    A pioneer in American social history, Jackson Turner Main presents the first continuous and detailed picture of the economic and social structure of an American colony from its founding up to the Revolution.

    Originally published in 1985.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5771-5
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Graphs and Tables
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-1)

    This book originated over a dozen years ago when I began a survey of colonial probate estate inventories in order to plot the distribution of property over time and place. Such an outline would enable someone working in local history to place a particular society within the general framework, purging intensive local studies of their principal bias.

    At the same time broad generalizations about the nature and direction of change in colonial society and economy needed testing. The most popular interpretation posited a comparatively democratic, equalitarian, near-subsistence society, beginning in the seventeenth century, and sometimes associated with cooperative attitudes, at...

  5. ONE On Population
    (pp. 3-27)

    This chapter exists quite by accident. I was trying to discover how many of the men who died in early Connecticut turned up in the probate court, in order to judge the reliability of the records. Using the published estimates of population and a commonly assumed death rate, I found that, until 1720, we seemed to have inventories of the estates of almost nine out of ten.¹ Indeed, during one decade the proportion exceeded 100 percent! Something was wrong: either the death rates were higher than we had supposed or the colony contained more people than the published estimates indicate....

  6. TWO On Property and Status
    (pp. 28-61)

    We might study the people of Connecticut in several ways, according to their various activities or roles. They themselves valued religion highly and distinguished men and women by their relative virtue. Military ability also meant more to them than to us because they fought, as they saw it, defensive battles against mortal enemies and because their wars involved at first almost everybody and later a high proportion of the young adult men. We might alternatively focus on politics, if we understand that word to include local governments, for most critical decisions grew out of town meetings and people judged others,...

  7. THREE The Distribution of Property in the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 62-114)

    The first settlers of Connecticut during the great migration and their children after them established a society and economy that would remain fundamentally the same for the next century. They founded within thirty years a score of towns from Stonington on the Rhode Island border to Greenwich, and indeed beyond the New York line to Rye. At the same time they settled from Eastern Long Island to the northern Connecticut Valley, where Windsor touched Massachusetts, and overflowed beyond into the sister colony. After this explosion, expansion slowed, then ceased until after King Philip’s War, which indeed drove back some of...

  8. FOUR The Distribution of Property in the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 115-173)

    The seventy-five years following 1700 consisted, from a socioeconomic point of view, of three or perhaps four periods. Until about 1730 the colony enjoyed steadily improving conditions, with a large amount of good land available for a small investment. Then came twenty years of economic decline, reaching bottom during the 1740s. A subsequent recovery returned the general level of wealth to the peak of the 1720s until the end of the French and Indian War. In the final ten years, however, symptoms appeared indicating another downward trend. Overall, the level of wealth on the eve of the Revolution differed very...

  9. FIVE The Laborers
    (pp. 174-199)

    Determining the number of laborers in colonial Connecticut depends upon how one defines the term. For this study we have called men who owned a farm, farmers, and those who had the implements of a craft, together with a shop or the like, artisans or craftsmen. Laborers were men who worked for or with the farmers, artisans, professionals, and traders. The key distinction lies in the possession of means of production—capital, or in the case of professionals, technical training.

    In reality the word “men” distorts the true situation. We have seen that males under twenty-one—boys—performed an adult’s...

  10. SIX The Farmers
    (pp. 200-240)

    Next to laborers, farmers were the most numerous occupational group in colonial Connecticut, and among the married men, exclusive of the elderly, they formed over half. We may distinguish three subspecies: the young married men just starting their careers; those well established, characteristically in their forties and fifties with teen-aged or grown children; and the grandfathers over sixty, who often continued to work with full vigor, but sometimes withdrew from an active life and turned the farm over to their children.

    We can follow the process of advancing from the farm laborer to the owner by beginning with the young...

  11. SEVEN The Craftsmen and Professionals
    (pp. 241-277)

    Next to the farmers and laborers, the craftsmen were the largest occupational group in colonial Connecticut. From the very beginning, when immigrants brought their skills and tools to support their convictions, fully one out of five adult men were artisans, a proportion that remained unchanged. Most of these, to be sure, acquired land for food or raw materials, and some presently supported themselves from their farms more than by their crafts; but, on the other hand, farmers about as frequently became part-time artisans. Thus the contribution of the craftsmen to the economy in all probability was proportionate to their numbers...

  12. EIGHT On Traders, and a Summary
    (pp. 278-316)

    The last occupational group in our survey of Connecticut’s men at work includes those who my best friend, only wife, and severest critic unkindly terms residuals and I call traders. Lumping quite disparate genera into a family requires only some critical attribute in common, and if we can discuss schoolteachers with doctors and shoemakers with millers we can reasonably combine peddlers and ships’ captain.

    All of these men had something to do with commerce, the transportation, buying, and selling of goods. They consisted of two general groups. To one belonged the men engaged in overseas trade, ranging from the common...

  13. NINE The Leaders
    (pp. 317-366)

    During the entire colonial period (except for a few years in the 1680s) the men of Connecticut selected their own leaders. This does not mean that every person exercising an important function was chosen by universal manhood suffrage, but that some portion of the adult men, or their elected representatives, did choose those who governed or guided them in religion, politics, and the military. Moreover, the social “elite” presided with general consent and the economic upper class originated within Connecticut’s society rather than imposing itself from the outside. Since that society was relatively homogeneous, no native elite could be or...

  14. TEN Conclusion
    (pp. 367-382)

    Connecticut’s white society began in the 1630s as an emigration from Massachusetts and to a lesser extent from England. The setders justified their removal as an extension of the great “Puritan” diaspora and acknowledged a desire for more land. The prospect attracted, not a cross-section of the settlers in the Bay colony, but a mixture of youthful families and young single males who displayed as much enthusiasm for dividing the land as for establishing churches.¹ The average age was scarcely over thirty; men outnumbered women at least two to one; and the great majority had neither property nor social status....

    (pp. 383-384)

    Several bibliographical aids guide the researcher through the large quantity of unpublished and the smaller amount of published sources. The microfilm index to the collection of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints lists most if not all of the second type and microfilms of the former, notably probate court records, deeds, and church records. Branch libraries have the index and will obtain individual reels. The Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, among others, have published catalogues of their genealogical and local history collections. Major university and other libraries commonly own at least one such....

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 385-395)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 396-396)