A Little Commonwealth

Family Life in Plymouth Colony

by

The year 2000 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of A Little Commonwealth by Bancroft Prize-winning scholar John Demos. This groundbreaking study examines the family in the context of the colony founded by the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower. Basing his work on physical artifacts, wills, estate inventories, and a variety of legal and official enactments, Demos portrays the family as a structure of roles and relationships, emphasizing those of husband and wife, parent and child, and master and servant. The book's most startling insights come from a reconsideration of commonly-held views of American Puritans and of the ways in which they dealt with one another. Demos concludes that Puritan "repression" was not as strongly directed against sexuality as against the expression of hostile and aggressive impulses, and he shows how this pattern reflected prevalent modes of family life and child-rearing. The result is an in-depth study of the ordinary life of a colonial community, located in the broader environment of seventeenth-century America.Demos has provided a new foreword and a list of further reading for this second edition, which will offer a new generation of readers access to this classic study.
  • Oxford University Press; September 1999
  • ISBN 9780199725960
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: A Little Commonwealth
  • Author: John Demos
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"[A Little Commonwealth makes] our forebears come alive, not as cute, little democratic wind-up toys useful for indoctrinating children and Fourth of July speeches, but as irascible, intolerant, undemocratic, but real and fascinating human beings."--Commonweal
"Demos writes with great charm, his easy, relaxed style having much muscle underneath."--National Review
"One of the finest pieces of local history that I have read in years....Because Demos writes clear, terse, flowing prose, his book will be a delight to the general reader as well as the scholar....[His] portrait of family life is captivating."--Saturday Review

About The Author

John Demos is Samuel Knight Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Entertaining Satan, winner of the Bancroft Prize, and The Unredeemed Capture.