Tavern-going was as an important a part of the social fabric of early America as churchgoing. Even in the most obscure communities Americans visited a tavern regularly if not daily.
John Monro was not, I suspect, an interesting man.
This is an ambitious and in many respects singularly brave book which adds a further dimension to the growing understanding of middle-class life that has prompted the research of increasing numbers of historians in the last decade or so.
Not so long ago, Peter the Great was commonly portrayed by historians on both sides of the Iron Curtain as a proto-Homo Sovieticus: an icon of muscular masculinity, giant in both frame and achievement. According to this tradition, it was Peter's distinctive genius to drag a backward and xenophobic Muscovy, kicking and screaming, into the rational modern world.
In 1852 the African-American physician and writer James McCune Smith described the ‘negro’ as ‘not an actual physical being of flesh and bones and blood, but a hideous monster of the mind’.(quoted on p. 247, McCune Smith’s italics) Yet in Bruce Dain’s detailed, subtle, and fascinating book, race theory appears more like a virus.
In Stephen Reynolds's A Poor Man's House, first published in 1908, he gives a loving description of the 'baked dinner' that 'Mam Widger' would cook, when funds permitted, for the Sidmouth fishing family with whom he lived:
This is the recipe for baked dinner:
It is refreshing to be told by William Hagen that 'refractoriness and insubordination proved to be Prussian virtues'.(p. 645) This statement would not be surprising about nineteenth-century Prussian working-class culture, but it is about early modern nobles and peasants.
Despite a certain academic heaviness, with no fewer than fifty-seven pages of notes, bibliography and index, and despite an occasionally disagreeable academic vocabulary, of which more anon, this book has a pleasantly simple knock-down argument, that Christianity in Britain enjoyed a long nineteenth century of prosperity, between 1800 and 1960, and only began to go into terminal decline in the
This book seems to have been a long time coming. Its precursors were a slim volume in the popular Macmillan Studies in Economic and Social History series in 1992, and more recently the Atlas of Victorian Mortality (with Nicola Shelton), published in 1997.
This volume seeks to display mid-nineteenth century views on modernity as well as to investigate aspects of modernisation in Victorian London. Observers then and now could not and cannot help but note the piecemeal re-development of London in this period, compared, for instance, with Paris.