Harriet Martineau: A Pioneer Comparative Sociologist
Americans today have forgotten, if they ever knew, the meaning the United States once held for the world. To the nineteenth-century European, America was a land of promise. To the penniless worker and peasant, it was the land to which they might someday emigrate. There, in a country without kings or nobility, they might live as free and equal men, with the actual possibility of gaining a decent economic and social position. To the intellectuals, the politically concerned, the rulers, and the rebels, America was both a reality and a symbol. It was a democratic republic permeated by equality in social relations. To the conservative and to the radical, it proved that such republics could survive.
This image of a new society brought thousands of "travelers," men and women of middle- and upper-class background who came to observe how the new revolutionary system worked. The intellectuals returned home to inform their compatriots through articles and books about America. These writings, the "foreign-traveler" literature, have always commanded attention both in their home countries and in America.1
The foreign-traveler literature constitutes a treasure trove for students of American society. In a sense, these works were the first____________________