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Farmers and Fishermen: Work in Essex County, 1650-1850
Content Session Material

Theme: An Industrious People: American Economic History
Farmers and Fishermen: Work in Essex County, 1650-1850
Date: Spring 2006
Scholar: Daniel Vickers, Ph.D. Professor, Department of History, University of California, San Diego

Overview | Required Reading | Reading Questions

Materials selected and syllabus compiled by Daniel Vickers, PhD., Professor, Department of History, University of California, San Diego.


The big question that we will raise in the seminar will be what distinguished the pre-industrial world of work from our own.  Were these farmers and fishermen fundamentally different from us?  Are the differences that separate us from them ones of behavior or of fundamental values? What sorts of behavior or which values?  My book and both articles are fundamentally about men of European origin.  Do you think colonial women or Native Americans would have regarded economic matters any differently?

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Vickers, Daniel.  “Competency and Competition:  Economic Culture in Early America,” William and Mary Quarterly 47 no. 1 (1990):  3-29.

Vickers, Daniel. Farmers and Fishermen:  Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Vickers, Daniel. “Those Damned Shad:  Would the River Fisheries of New England Have Survived in the Absence of Industrialization?” William and Mary Quarterly 61 no. 4 (2004):685-712.


--none suggested-

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There is a longstanding debate amongst American historians about whether or not the period, 1790-1840, constituted a dividing line in the social history of the United States. Carl Degler, on the one hand, has argued that "capitalism came in the first ships." James Henretta, on the other hand argues that in the pre-industrial period, American culture was non-capitalist or even "anti-capitalist" in its character.  Which seems to best characterize the period, and why do historians argue the point?  

Where do you think I stand?

Try to imagine how somebody might argue against my two articles.

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