History 231 Reading Guide

Southern Societies in the Eighteenth Century

  • Charles G. Steffen, “The Rise of the Independent Merchant in the Chesapeake:  Baltimore, County, 1660-1769,” JAH 76.1 (1989): 9-33.  JSTOR
  • Warren R. Hofstra, “‘The Extension of His Majesties Dominions’:  The Virginia Backcountry and the Reconfiguration of Imperial Frontiers,” JAH 84.4 (1998): 1281-1312.  JSTOR


Note:  In summarizing the historiographical context for their particular studies, Steffen and Hofstra present an overview of the tidewater (Chesapeake and Carolina) and backcountry societies that we will consider in this class.

  • According to Steffen, what are the main lines of agreement and disagreement in the historiographical debate about the nature of eighteenth-century Chesapeake plantation society—whether its economic growth was also economic development?
  • How does he characterize the three phases in the evolution of the merchant community in Baltimore County? How does Steffen’s study of the period from 1659-1769—which Jack Greene describes as the second (elaboration/acculturation) and third (replication) phases of his model—support, refine, or challenge Greene’s broader argument?
  • What role did the native-born merchant community in the Chesapeake play in the growth and development of the economy, society, and polity of the Chesapeake?
  • How does Steffen enhance our understanding of the London-connection arrivals to the Chesapeake that Martin Quitt described?
  • According to Hofstra, what are the “conventional answers” to the question: why did a society develop on the Virginia frontier whose ethnic and religious diversity, mixed economy, and political outlook fundamentally altered the identity of the colony? What does Hofstra propose as an alternative answer (his thesis)?
  • What were the “imperatives of empire” that led to the British imperial effort to establish a presence in the Blue Ridge backcountry?
  • What kind of settlers did the Virginia Council and the London Board of Trade seek—and why?
  • What were the consequences for Virginia society and polity of their imperial effort?