Friday, 26 October 2012

Carlisle, Pennsylvania: A Town In-Between

I just finished reading Judith Ridner's A Town In-Between: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the Early Mid-Atlantic Interior. In the introduction, Ridner advertises her book as a microhistory of an eighteenth-century town in central Pennsylvania that mirrors many other towns in America at that time.

The detail in this book is staggering. Ridner has clearly done extensive research on eighteenth-century life in central Pennsylvania. Her extensive footnotes cite multiple sources on colonial interaction with Native Americans, internal migration patterns in America, and names of key figures in the town. The book is particularly strong on Carlisle resident's attitudes during the American Revolution.

I read the book in order to learn about life in eighteenth-century Carlisle, hoping to learn more about the culture of Dickinson College during its founding years. In this regard, the book had little to offer. While Ridner did talk briefly about Benjamin Rush, Charles Nisbet, and the founding of Dickinson College, her book did not provide any new information beyond what Charles Sellers wrote in Dickinson College: A History. But as microhistories go, Ridner has produced an important monograph that gives a glimpse of what life was like in an interior town in America during the eighteenth century.

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