Imagining the Past: East Hampton Histories

T. H. Breen, Author Addison Wesley Publishing Company $21.33 (306p) ISBN 978-0-201-06749-1
In the prestigious Long Island community of East Hampton, as in many other American towns and villages, attitudes toward the past shape how people perceive a common future. And in this unusual historical and anthropological detective story, a Northwestern University historian investigates the community's perceptions about its past. Hired as the town's ``resident humanist,'' Breen examined 350 years of documents and talked with fishermen, businesspeople, real-estate developers and other inhabitants about East Hampton's myths and traditions and their expectations of its future development. As Peter Matthiessen revealed the tradition, and current sorry state, of the area's fishing industry in Men's Lives , Breen shows that, 200 years earlier, local greed caused the disappearance of offshore whales and allowed widespread sheep grazing that led to the loss of Long Island's forests. According to the author, an ``empty heritage''--not so much an actual tradition as its appearance--has been transformed into a commodity that is sold and misused, as were slaves, whales and striped bass in East Hampton's past. His view is lively, discerning and disturbing. Photos. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8203-1810-3
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