Frontier Settlement and Market Revolution: The Holland Land Purchase

Synopsis

Land development in western New York contributed to some of the most dramatic and convulsive changes in nineteenth-century America. Charles E. Brooks studies the Holland Land Purchase to explain the market revolution in the New England and New York countryside by tracing the actual development of a frontier region. Brooks argues that historians have been too quick to view ordinary people as the pawns of various elites; the frontier farmers and small producers of the Holland Land Purchase, he maintains, cannot easily be placed along a continuum stretching from republican virtue to liberal self-interest. They simply wanted access to the land and resources necessary for a modest, comfortable life. Frontier Settlement and Market Revolution also explores the ecological impact of frontier settlement and the evolution of private land development based on the decision either to clear land for farming or to harvest timber resources for potash, lumber, maple sugar, fuel wood, and scrub pasture. When slumping land values and rising indebtedness generated a crisis for both landlords and settlers in the 1820s, conflict between the self-interest of small producers and the Holland Land Company's urge to control the region's economic growth was inevitable.

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