Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century

Paperback | December 25, 2010

bySarah M. S. Pearsall

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The Atlantic represented a world of opportunity in the eighteenth century, but it represented division also, separating families across its coasts. Whether due to economic shifts, changing political landscapes, imperial ambitions, or even simply personal tragedy, many families found themselvesfractured and disoriented by the growth and later fissure of a larger Atlantic world. Such dislocation posed considerable challenges to all individuals who viewed orderly family relations as both a general and a personal ideal. The more fortunate individuals who thus found themselves 'all at sea' were able to use family letters, with attendant emphases on familiarity, sensibility, and credit, in order to remain connected in times and places of considerable disconnection. Portraying the family as a unified, affectionate,and happy entity in such letters provided a means of surmounting concerns about societies fractured by physical distance, global wars, and increasing social stratification. It could also provide social and economic leverage to individual men and women in certain circumstances. Sarah Pearsall explores the lives and letters of these families, revealing the sometimes shocking stories of those divided by sea. Ranging across the Anglophone Atlantic, including mainland American colonies and states, Britain, and the British Caribbean, Pearsall argues that it was this expandingAtlantic world, much more than the American Revolution, that reshaped contemporary ideals about families, as much as families themselves reshaped the transatlantic world.

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The Atlantic represented a world of opportunity in the eighteenth century, but it represented division also, separating families across its coasts. Whether due to economic shifts, changing political landscapes, imperial ambitions, or even simply personal tragedy, many families found themselvesfractured and disoriented by the growth and...

Sarah M. S. Pearsall previously taught at Northwestern University, St. Andrews University, and Cambridge University. In 2010-2011, she is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Newberry Library, where she previously held another long-term fellowship. She received her PhD from Harvard University. Her articles have appear...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.07 inPublished:December 25, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199600449

ISBN - 13:9780199600441

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Table of Contents

PrologueIntroductionPart I: "Dealing by Ink Altogether": Mechanisms of Connection and DisconnectionIntroduction to Part I1. Fractured Families: The Perils and Possibilities of Atlantic Distance2. Familiarity in Life and Letters3. Sensibility in Life and Letters4. Credit in Life and LettersPart II: "What may be our Lot": Stories of Connection and DisconnectionIntroduction to Part II5. The Repentant Son and the Unforgiving Father: Making a Man of Feeling, a Man of Credit6. The Farewell between Husband and Wife: The Politics of Family Feeling7. The Old Husband and the Young Wife: Scandal, Feeling, and DistanceConclusionEpilogueBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"Valuable...[the book] demonstrates the historical and intellectual value of attending to the individual and contingent, revealed through the material traces of personal correspondence and the surprising capacity of letters to undercut stereotypes, to reinflect grand historical narratives ofnational or economic progress, 'and to reveal something new' about the Atlantic worlds of the eighteenth century." --Alison Searle, William and Mary Quarterly