Democracy in the Connecticut Frontier Town of Kent

Democracy in the Connecticut Frontier Town of Kent

Democracy in the Connecticut Frontier Town of Kent

Democracy in the Connecticut Frontier Town of Kent

Excerpt

Ten years after its publication, we can see that Democracy in the Connecticut Frontier Town of Kent was a schoolroom for the new local history. Charles Grant's study was the first in a series of local analyses which have called historians' generalizations into question and led them toward a more informed understanding of early American society. Little heralded at the time, it now emerges as a pioneering and still effective work.

Grant hit upon two neglected truths: life in early America was typically lived in a small rural community; and in evaluating that life every aspect of human activity had to be considered. The consequence was a work which looked at some early Americans where they lived and which with relentless honesty sought out the degree of democracy manifested in every aspect of their lives. The results went beyond a sensitive portrayal of the shifting textures of democracy in one part of colonial America. Historians learned that the totality of local life should be studied, could be studied, and would yield rich results. Kent's influence pervaded the next generation of colonial historians.

Incidental details of this investigation of rural life are as instructive today as when it was first published. Other historians have rushed into the demographic records, which Grant largely neglected, but they have not yet produced as fine an account of the influence of kinship on daily affairs. Despite the importance of land in the American past, few scholars have followed up Grant's analyses of the acreage required to produce a commercial surplus, or of the hypocritical speculative mentality which surrounded the acquisition of land in this not-so-idyllic colonial township, or of the process of overcrowding which altered the very nature of . . .

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