An Archaeology of Improvement in Rural Massachusetts: by Quentin Lewis

By Quentin Lewis

This ebook probes the materiality of development in early 19th century rural Massachusetts. development was once a metaphor for human intervention within the dramatic alterations happening to the English conversing international within the 18th and 19th centuries as a part of a transition to commercial capitalism.  The which means of development vacillated among principles of financial revenue and human betterment, yet in perform, development depended on a huge assemblage of fabric issues and areas for coherence and enaction.

Utilizing archaeological information from the house of a filthy rich farmer in rural Western Massachusetts, in addition to an research of early Republican agricultural courses, this e-book exhibits how Improvement’s dual meanings of revenue and betterment opened up inconsistently throughout early 19th century New England. the advance stream in Massachusetts emerged at a time of serious social instability, and served to ameliorate growing to be tensions among city and rural socioeconomic existence via a clarification of house. along this explanation, development additionally served to reshape rural landscapes in line with the social and monetary methods of a modernizing international capitalism. however the contradictions inherent in such methods spurred and buttressed wealth inequality, ecological misery, and social dislocation.

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Arguably, the overlapping nature of these meanings in the period under study emerges from the particular social relations and forces that find confluence at this time, in places like rural Massachusetts. Despite the easy parsing of Improvement as profit-oriented practices versus Improvement as a set of moral or symbolic ideas, both meanings overlapped across a variety of material, discursive, social, and symbolic domains. And the landscapes manifested under the circumstances of these competing definitions likewise exhibit such overlap.

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This created a bifurcated peasantry. Some peasants became referred to as Yeoman (independent, market-oriented farmers). This term was reconfigured in early nineteenth century New England around issues of moral authenticity and regional identity (see Chap. 5). In contrast, poorer medieval peasants struggled to hang on to subsistence farms or were ejected off them altogether, becoming landless (Wolf 1997, p. 266). Some of these landless moved to cities to work in proto-industrial workshops, spurring massive urbanization as well as an increased demand for market agriculture (De Vries 1976, pp.

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