Cover: Peoples of a Spacious Land in PAPERBACK

Peoples of a Spacious Land

Families and Cultures in Colonial New England

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Product Details


$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674016026

Publication Date: 10/25/2004


334 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

2 halftones, 8 line illustrations, 3 tables


Main’s book depicts the New England family as an engine of growth that generated a multitude of industrious farmers and frugal artisans. Collectively, the New Englanders overcame their geographic handicap of settling a region with comparatively low agricultural yields… This is a thought-provoking, innovative work that deserves to be widely read by students of early American history. Immaculately produced by Harvard University Press, Main’s findings will influence the research agendas of scholars working on colonial New England for some time to come.—S.D. Smith, Economic History Review

Main…has written a fine book about family life in early New England that joins a long list of distinguished studies on the topic. Her thorough account of these studies grounds her own work, a sophisticated addition that looks at sexuality, courtship, marriage, childbirth, child rearing, childhood itself, old age, and other related topics. What’s different, however, is that Main has woven in descriptions of Native American family life, which she contrasts to English practice, thus augmenting the usual historical sources with anthropological research. Generations of historians have shunned comparison as an organizing technique, but Main uses it here to great effect, which makes for good history as well as good general reading… This skilled study is nevertheless a graceful, scholarly book. Recommended for large public and all academic libraries.—Bonnie Collier, Library Journal

Gloria Main…offers a magisterial analysis of colonial New England society, literally from the ground up. Beginning with the region’s environment, she draws on a vast array of studies and her own powerful research skills to paint an authoritative portrait of the struggles of daily life for colonists and Native Americans. For both groups, the family was the basic organizing unit of society. By focusing on family life, the author finds the key to understanding the society, culture, and economy of colonial New England… A rewarding read… [Peoples of a Spacious Land] offer[s] readers a rich understanding of the society that played such a crucial role in the making of the United States.—Evan Haefeli, The Washington Times

An important and valuable work that will last… Its value lies in its systematic comparison of New English life with the lives of comparable groups remaining in England and of the Narragansett Indians on dimensions such as social organization, patterns of work, gender relations, sexual practices, and ways of dealing with sickness and death. I cannot think of another work that makes such comparisons as helpfully. Main adds to our understanding of the English in America.—Robert Middlekauff, University of California, Berkeley

Awards & Accolades

  • 2002 Alice Hanson Jones Prize, Economic History Association
Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt, by Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, from Harvard University Press

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