A little commonwealth thesis

The Plymouth family acted as a church in the sense that parents provided basic teachings about morality in the home, with daily prayers and meditation an important complement to the local church.

Surprisingly, takes a bit of a detour from the documentary record to connect the topic to the psychology of Erikson. There are few silences in the narrative of family life such as the daily life and play of childrenbut these may be unavoidable.

I especially liked the chapter on clothes!

John Demos: A Little Commonwealth - Essay Example

The family also served in Plymouth as a sort of welfare institution, argued Demos, where orphans were assigned, the elderly rested, and the poor of the community could be housed. He noted that the average family size in the town of Bristol in was A little commonwealth thesis persons, with 47 percent of families containing four, five, or six persons.

Map of early New England The traditional image of Puritan society as one of dominant patriarchy, argued Demos, needs to be modified in light of his research.


Social and economic forces worked to keep this nuclear family together, and Demos found that the death of a spouse typically meant an interval of less than a year before the surviving spouse remarried.

Readers learn of the unique character of Puritan families, while also discovering the ways in which Puritan households were very much like contemporary American families.

Jul 15, Andrew Pemberton rated it it was amazing An excellent social approach to A little commonwealth thesis the commonly overlooked aspects of familial life in Plymouth Colony.

There are many inferences, for example, that can be drawn about the Plymouth community from the case of a young man who was brought before the Court facing a charge of disobedience to his parents: Demos uses that psychological framework of Erik Erikson outlined to explain how the repression of impulses especially individualistic impulses was institutionalized within the Puritan family, and how its consequence shame became a defining characteristic of Pilgrim life Demos made use of a wide variety of sources for the text, and he began the text with an examination of physical artifacts - such as buildings, tools, clothing, and cooking utensils — to provide several chapters on the physical environment of the typical Plymouth family.

This is because what was considered normal within the community was seldom documented; there was little reason to record what everyone already knew and understood. But it seems that repression was instead directed at actions committed by members of the community, especially those actions that could be characterized as hostile or aggressive Usually his hypotheses were quite plausible, although one of the most central, that the way child-raising was conducted and the circumstances of family life led to a great concern and fascination with aggression, seemed also among the weakest to me.

Moreover, unlike many of his predecessors - whose depictions of colonial New England relied heavily on the documents produced by social elites - Demos provides a view of everyday life in the homes of the Plymouth middling sort. From a modern point of view the society seems very oppressive, as there was essentially no privacy, no one was permitted to live outside a family, and moral misbehavior was constantly scrutinized and repressed.

Demos makes a valiant effort to reconstruct these relationships by examining physical artifacts, wills, court decisions, and estate inventories. It appears that Demos attempted to examine all major dynamics at work within the family—relationships between family members—but by necessity he merely outlined these relations in broad strokes.

Among his many contributions to the field of colonial American history has been his innovative use of demography as a tool to reassess and, in some cases, to rewrite traditional interpretations of the period. The result is a book that incorporates demographic analysis with thoughtful interpretations, all woven together with the skillful prose of Demos to produce a work that maintains its vitality thirty-seven years after its publication.

A Little Commonwealth is a microhistory of family life in seventeenth century Plymouth Colonyand Demos attempted to unearth vignettes of typical families in that seminal colonial settlement. The evidence is scanty, and consists mostly of such documents as wills and deeds and records of court cases; personal letters and journals are almost absent.

A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony

While a scholarly work, A Little Commonwealth is accessible to general readers, and requires little previous familiarity with the history of colonial New England.

The overlaying dynamic of Pilgrim life, according to Demos, was that it was a patriarchal society Demos argued that traditional notions of large extended families living under one roof in colonial New England need to be reexamined in light of the demographic evidence he discovered through census records.

In the end, it appears that Pilgrim family life was as complex if not more so than family life today. Demos has pulled out some interesting primary sources, include a rare census, diaries, writings by early settlers, etc. To some extent, Demos depended on extrapolating from psychological theory to figure out what the responses to social circumstances might have been; this of course is where evidence is most indirect.

It might have been desirable to present a case study of one particular family, following its development and changes through time. The author examined wills, inventories of the possessions of deceased community members, official town records, and church sermons to glean information for his demographic analysis, and often provided excerpts that offered insightful glimpses of everyday life.

It appears, however, that Demos has provided us a valuable glimpse into the Pilgrim family life that, while incomplete, gives a sense of how things were.

Women in the Plymouth Colony, noted Demos, also had legal recourse in cases of spousal desertion and domestic abuse, unlike their counterparts in England.

This book was a different perspective than the typical one that focuses on the key players of the colony. As such, I think it is more of a specialist book than one of general interest.

Nonetheless, he gets very far, and comes up with a very clear picture of a society in which there simply were no institutions outside the family -- even in cases where courts had to step in to dispose the case of some individual, they did so by directing some family to do it internally.

Demos discusses the evidence with the reader, instead of leaning on authoritarian statements. While his account of Pilgrim life is necessarily incomplete, his evidence allows us to begin to understand the dynamics at work. Children were "broken," their individuality destroyed, so that they met the expectation of obedience to authority, whether it be obedience to their father or obedience to the government With few exceptionshusbands had full control over their homes and businesses; indeed they were even able to dispose and assign their children to other households with little to no consultation with their wives But how much do we know about the Pilgrims as people, their relationships with each other both within the context of the family and community?A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony John Demos Abstract.

The year marked the 30th anniversary of the publication of this title. The study examines the family in the context of the colony founded by the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower.

Basing his work on physical artifacts, wills, estate inventories, and a variety. A Little Commonwealth By John Demos Book Review By Jonathan Klakamp I’ve chosen to review “A Little Commonwealth” by John Demos.

In this book, it’s obvious that Author, John Demos, is intent on developing his analysis with materials Indigenous to the Plymouth colonies. Apr 12,  · A Little Commonwealth is a microhistory of family life in seventeenth century Plymouth Colony, and Demos attempted to unearth vignettes of typical families in that seminal colonial settlement.

The book’s title is a reference to a quote from William Gouge, who argued that the ideal family is “a little Church, and a little. A Little Commonwealth Essay Words 4 Pages The modern image of the New England Puritans, as one perceives, is a dark one: the Puritans, religious dissenters who valued propriety and order, are seen as a witch-hunters, suspicious tribe, and their very name carries connotations of grimness and primness.

Click to read more about A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony by John Demos. LibraryThing is a cataloging and social networking site for booklovers. All about A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony by John Demos.

Among the findings that he reports in A Little Commonwealth is the surprising discovery that /5(3). A LITTLE COMMONWEALTH: Family Life in Plymouth Colony.

By. GET WEEKLY BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: Email Address Subscribe. Tweet. KIRKUS REVIEW. Brandeis Professor Demos, armed with research on written records, the ""quantitative"" methods of the social sciences, and a little Freud and Erik Erikson, mounts a, cautious.

A little commonwealth thesis
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