A Little Commonwealth By John Demos
Book Review By Jonathan Klakamp
I’ve chosen to review “A Little Commonwealth” by John Demos. In this book, it’s obvious that Author, John Demos, is intent on developing his analysis with materials Indigenous to the Plymouth colonies. In the forward to “A Little Commonwealth” Demos states, “It was my wish to write a type of case study in early American life – a Study which, through sustained work on materials from one community, produces questions, methods of approach, and even some substantive conclusions that will ultimately have a much wider application”. When Demos first started his work he looked into the courts records from the Plymouth Colony, which he found to be negative and bias. Mostly pointing out what the colony (as a whole) disapproved of rather than what daily life was actually like for the individual families that lived there. Demos thought information he found was too formal regarding family interaction and less from a personal or emotional standpoint. Demos then turned to the earlier essays collected in the works of John Robinson - The Works of John Robinson (who was the original Pilgrim pastor), William Bradford’s - Of Plymouth Plantation, and Edmund Morgan’s - The Puritan Family to gather most of his information.
Demos's focus on cultural changes brought by a new environment succeeds in highlighting the evolved status of women as well. Noting a trend towards an expansion of the rights of married women to hold property, in family decision making, and even in certain types of business activity such as the management of inns and taverns, Demos points out a growing equality of the sexes in Plymouth, as compared to many parts of Europe where a wife was still quite literally at the mercy of her husband. Although Demos sets out to showcase how everyday family life in Plymouth reflected cultural change from the Old World habitat, his analysis is objective enough to acknowledge areas where there was little...
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