We must congratulate Butler for [bringing] under control (a] profusion of scholarship and [making] sense of it in fewer than 250 pages. His book is a tour de force ... Compelling and readable.
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In a thoughtful, erudite survey of colonial history, Butler traces the formation of many of America's modern social characteristics in the crucible of pre-Revolutionary society...Americans today think of the colonial period, if at all, as a time remote from modern America, in which society was unimaginably different from ours. Butler argues persuasively that America during the late colonial period (1680-1776) rapidly developed a variegated culture that displayed distinctive traits of modern America, among them vigorous religious pluralism, bewildering ethnic diversity, tremendous inequalities of wealth, and a materialistic society with pervasively commercial values...A sweeping, well-researched analysis of the transformative changes wrought by immigration, war, and cultural change in colonial America.
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The decades in between the Puritan-dominated 17th century and the market-revolutionizing early 19th century were a formative period, [Butler] suggests, during which a distinctly 'American' society--and, as Butler would have it, the first 'modern' society--developed...Butler's original analysis is important reading on 18th-century America; he shows that the colonies were developing distinct ways of spending, building, praying, decorating and politicking even then--a cultural revolution that anticipated the political revolution that was to follow.
A terrific book, filled with human interest and the kind of detail that makes abstractions meaningful. A commendable weaving together of themes and materials from political history, social history, and cultural history. Butler offers us a firm foundation for further exploration.
--Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard University
An engrossing, important book. It promises to provoke and inspire. Jon Butler's Becoming America is an ambitious examination of Britain's mainland North American colonies between 1680 and 1770. The scope of the book is really quite broad; it covers nearly a century of development across thirteen widely varying colonies, and considers six formidably large aspects of early American life: migration and settlement, politics, economics, religion, the material world, and the origins of the Revolution. Butler's book revolves around, and advances, a coherent, critical thesis: that 'the vast social, economic, political, and cultural changes' of this period 'created a distinctively 'American' society.' The surprise of the book is that this society was modern; indeed, as Butler claims, it was the world's 'first modern society.' The world Butler portrays in his often vivid, and always highly readable prose is an America of fantastic diversity, an America of many languages, different customs, and dissenting practices of piety. Butler's Becoming America is a world of bustling politics and economic revolutions.
--Jill Lepore, Boston University
In yet another provocative challenge to the conventional wisdom, Jon Butler argues for the 'modernity' of eighteenth-century America. He provides a lively and readable account of how transatlantic commerce, participatory politics, religious pluralism, and ethnic and racial diversity put colonials on the path to 'becoming Americans' during the decades before the Revolution.
--Christine Heyrman, author of Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt
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BECOMING AMERICA: The Revolution Before 1776User Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
In a thoughtful, erudite survey of colonial history, Butler (Awash in a Sea of Faith, not reviewed) traces the formation of many of America's modern social characteristics in the crucible of pre ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - sweetFrank - LibraryThing
Butler argues that there was a remarkable social and economic transformation in the American colonies between 1680 and 1770: (1) they became ethnically and nationally diverse, (2) they developed ... Read full review