The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840

Jack Larkin, Author HarperCollins Publishers $22.95 (349p) ISBN 978-0-06-015905-4
In this highly readable, informative if specialized history, Larkin, historian at the re-created Colonial Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, describes the social changes that accompanied the country's swift development in its first decades of independence. He cites statistical research and quotes contemporary observers from abroad on various aspects of day-to-day significance: the gradual disappearance of the self-contained family farm and village artisan, for example, as textile plants, shoe factories and other enterprises took ``control of materials and product out of the hands of the craftsmen and put them into those of merchant capitalists.'' Larkin also discusses the drop in family size as land became scarcer and settlement moved westward, as well as the steady improvement in housing and available goods brought by the railroads. Readers are reminded of the lack of refinement prevalent in those timesthe dirtiness of home, grounds and person, the crudity of food and dress, the commonplace of cold-climate Americans sharing beds with strangers in roadside inns. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
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