Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth by Sarah Pearsall

By Sarah Pearsall

The Atlantic represented a global of chance within the eighteenth century, however it represented department additionally, setting apart households throughout its coasts. even if as a result of fiscal shifts, altering political landscapes, imperial targets, or perhaps easily own tragedy, many households stumbled on themselves fractured and disoriented via the expansion and later fissure of a bigger Atlantic global. Such dislocation posed huge demanding situations to all people who considered orderly family members family members as either a basic and a private excellent. The extra lucky people who hence chanced on themselves "all at sea" have been capable of use family members letters, with attendant emphases on familiarity, sensibility, and credits, as a way to stay attached in instances and areas of substantial disconnection. Portraying the relatives as a unified, affectionate, and chuffed entity in such letters supplied a way of surmounting matters approximately societies fractured via actual distance, international wars, and extending social stratification. it may well additionally supply social and fiscal leverage to person women and men in sure conditions. Sarah Pearsall explores the lives and letters of those households, revealing the occasionally surprising tales of these divided through sea. Ranging around the Anglophone Atlantic, together with mainland American colonies and states, Britain, and the British Caribbean, Pearsall argues that it used to be this increasing Atlantic world-much greater than the yank Revolution-that reshaped modern beliefs approximately households, up to households themselves reshaped the transatlantic global.

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Extra info for Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century

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2: The Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). ¹¹ Steele, The English Atlantic, 273. Fractured Families 31 both made sense of, and in some cases ameliorated, their particular individual circumstances. Yet they did more than this. They participated in the construction of an Atlantic world and culture, one in which writing a letter to a family member was both a personal and a political act. Let us get our sea-legs, then. There were many causes for Atlantic separations and movements in the eighteenth century, and it is useful to trace them out, albeit briefly.

Introduction 15 they would not have sent the missive at all. This dialogic quality of letters has too often been missing in the use of letters as sources. Letters follow conventions, but the shifting nature of those conventions, and the metaphors used in them, makes them an especially rich source by which to witness family life. Conventions in the later eighteenth century began to dictate that seemingly natural and spontaneous expressions of sentiment should fill personal letters. Atlantic family letters, then, allow us to see a number of vexed debates differently.

Yet they also provide insights into how such separations could benefit families, how they could and did exploit it. They also demonstrate the deep and abiding connection between the private lives of individuals, and their larger political contexts. West Indian planters came under fire for problematic domestic arrangements at a time when their political clout was challenged. Women writing intimate letters as well as politicians speaking in Parliament exploited similar forms of language, and claims to family feeling.

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