Who knew one of our books could have anything to do with a song by the band Arcade Fire? And who knew that Arcade Fire would ever be mentioned on Common-place.org, a web site devoted to early American history and culture? Common-place writer William Huntting Howell begins his review of Konstantin Dierks's In My Power: Letter Writing and Communications in Early America by quoting the lyrics of "We Used to Wait."
I'm gonna write
A letter to my true love
I'm gonna sign my name
Like a patient on a table
Howell draws a connection between the contemporary idea of letter writing expressed in this song and the power of letter writing Dierk's book.
"In his closely argued, deeply researched, and unfailingly engaging In My Power, " says Howell, "Konstantin Dierks takes on the personal side of the burgeoning documentary culture of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century anglophone Atlantic. Amassing and interpreting a remarkably broad archive of correspondence (by merchants and diplomats, housewives and frontiersmen, children and generals) Dierks finds in the material and rhetorical practices of letter writing new ways of understanding the relationship between Enlightenment-era Britons and the ideologies that structured their lives. Ultimately, he argues that the production and circulation of letters become a way of articulating individual agency against a backdrop of massive social change."
Common-place also published a review of Dangerous Economies: Status and Commerce in Imperial New York by
Serena R. Zabin. Even though this review, written by Jen Manion, was free of song lyrics, we appreciate it just the same.
Manion writes, "In this wonderful snapshot of the relationship between economic systems and social hierarchies in eighteenth-century New York, Serena Zabin offers an exciting view of life on the margins in the imperial city. For starters, Zabin views New York not as a colonial frontier but rather as an imperial outpost, and she suggests that this vantage is key to understanding how New Yorkers understood themselves and their world at the time—on the margins of empire. Life on the margins of empire was filled with characters generally thought to be marginal to the real elites, politicians, and power brokers in England. But Zabin persuasively demonstrates that work done by poor and middling white women, slaves, servants, sailors, and dance masters was much more central to the imperial struggle for status and authority than previously thought."
Paperback versions of Dangerous Economies and In My Power will be released this fall.