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Labor in a New Land

Labor in a New Land: Economy and Society in Seventeenth-Century Springfield

Stephen Innes
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Labor in a New Land
    Book Description:

    Stephen Innes studies the relationship between work, land, and community in seventeenth-century Springfield, Massachusetts. Using analytical concepts drawn from anthropology--dependence, mediation, and clientage--he shows that the town was a highly commercialized, developmental community contrasting sharply with the communal, quietistic models that currently form our image of early New England.

    Originally published in 1983.

    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: 978-1-4008-5549-0
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. [Maps]
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Social Diversity and Social Change in Seventeenth-Century New England
    (pp. xv-2)

    Few topics have rivaled the colonial New England town as an object of fascination for the most recent generation of American historians. Since the simultaneous appearance of important community studies by Kenneth A. Lockridge, Philip J. Greven, John Demos, and Michael Zuckerman in the banner year of 1970, scholars have been reformulating the entire panorama of United States history in the light of the experience of early New Englanders¹ The studies of Dedham and Andover have been particularly influential, and their portrayal of a communal, egalitarian, harmonious society has not yet been brought into serious question. A new study of...

  7. Chapter 1 A Company Town
    (pp. 3-16)

    Springfield began as a commercial enterprise and remained such throughout the seventeenth century. Founded in 1636 by William Pynchon as a fur-trading post, the town quickly became the major merchandising center in the upper Connecticut Valley. The fur trade enriched the Pynchon family and brought large numbers of artisans, teamsters, and laborers to the community. Within a generation of settlement, the relationships between the Pynchons and the laboring classes had produced a society that can best be described as a company town.

    The commercial orientation that William Pynchon brought to the Connecticut Valley reflected the economic individualism of his native...

  8. Chapter 2 Dominance
    (pp. 17-43)

    When john pynchon died in 1703, the Reverend Solomon Stoddard of Northampton eulogized him as a “Father to the Country.” In a moving oration, the Northampton divine lamented that “a great man is fallen this day in our Israel. . . . God has removed one that has been a long while Serviceable. That has been improved about Public Service for aboveFifty Years: he has been Serviceable unto the Country in general, and in special among our selves. He hath had the principal management of our Military Affairs, and our Civil Affairs: and laboured much in the setling of...

  9. Chapter 3 Land
    (pp. 44-71)

    Land in seventeenth-century Springfield was less a communal bond than it was a fungible commodity. Unlike the subsistence farming communities, land in the Connecticut Valley town changed hands early and often. As the “Records of Possession” make clear, Springfield had an active land market as early as 1650. The weakness of corporate ties resulted in the town meeting’s loss of primary control over land allocation. Rather than carefully rationing acreage in order to preserve social harmony and protect future generations, Springfield allowed most of the town’s genuinely first-rate acreage to pass quickly into private hands. And, by a combination of...

  10. Chapter 4 Work
    (pp. 72-122)

    For most of the inhabitants of early Springfield, the process of “getting work” began with a trek to the Pynchon general store. Over half of the town’s population at any given time was working a month or longer each year for John Pynchon, and for approximately forty seventeenth-century inhabitants he was their primary source of income. Men worked for Pynchon either by choice or necessity. Those who worked by choice were the skilled artisans—blacksmiths, coopers, tailors, and the like—who found in Pynchon a man eager for their services and well able to pay for them. Those who worked...

  11. Chapter 5 Community
    (pp. 123-150)

    In seventeenth-century springfield communal obligations were subordinated to individual needs. The town’s inhabitants, far from reifying the concept of community, accepted the primacy of the individual family household as their dominant public value. The residents would cooperate with their neighbors when they had to, work in concert when it was necessary, or band together against outsiders when attacks came, but otherwise they concentrated on securing exclusively individual goals. These goals were, first, to earn their daily bread and, second, to provide a patrimony for their children. And in both of these pursuits they relied not on corporate solidarity, but on...

  12. Chapter 6 Decline of the Gentry, 1684–1703
    (pp. 151-170)

    The glorious revolution was the greatest test of John Pynchon’s authority in Springfield. The wave of antiauthoritarianism unleashed by the overthrow of the Dominion of New England brought rocketing factionalism and conflict to virtually every community in Massachusetts, of which the hysteria at Salem was only the most spectacular example. But in Springfield, tranquility reigned. While selectmen, representatives, and militia officers who had served the Dominion were summarily removed from office elsewhere, in Springfield the old guard remained secure. This docility was largely the result of Pynchon’s financial hold over so many of the town’s inhabitants. With the livelihood of...

  13. Epilogue: Springfield, John Pynchon and New England Society
    (pp. 171-184)

    The salient characteristics of seventeenth-century Springfield chronicled herein—developmentalism, diversification, acquisitiveness, individualism, contentiousness, and stratification—were not unique to the Connecticut Valley settlement. All existing studies of coastal ports such as Boston and Salem have revealed similar societies. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, in particular, found the same combination of factiousness, market-orientation, and witchcraft in late seventeenth-century Salem. Several recent examinations of Plymouth show the tenuousness of communalism in that colony; and a study of Windsor, Connecticut finds a markedly high level of tolerance for socially deviant behavior. David T. Konig’sLaw and Society in Puritan Massachusetts: Essex County, 1629...

  14. Index
    (pp. 185-196)