History 332

The Frontier in the Early Republic:  Community, Biography, Fiction, Myth

  • Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town:  Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (1996).  Note: read Introduction, Chapters 1-4, 8, 10, 13-15 (pp. 3-114, 199-228, 256-291, 346-427); skim chapters 5-7, 9, 11, 12.

Further reading (historical myths, stories, and narratives):

  • David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (1994), Introduction:  Paul Revere Remounted; Historiography:  Myths After the Midnight Ride, xiii-xviii, 327-344.
  • William Cronon, “A Place for Stories:  Nature, History, and Narrative,” Journal of American History 78 (March 1992), 1347-1376.  JSTOR

Questions:

  • Think about how this study fits into the context of our exploration of community in American history.  Cooperstown is located in upstate New York.  Taylor examines the the town and its environs as a frontier and a frontier society.  Its residents came from New England and the mid-Atlantic to a region formerly occupied by the Seneca, part of the Iroquois Confederacy.  New York and the other the mid-Atlantic states were renowned for the partisan politics that would become the norm in the new nation. Finally, this study brings us into the early Republic—an era of significant and substantial change, transformation, and uncertainty.
  • What is Taylor’s thesis?  What perspectives does he use to explore and prove it?
  • How does Taylor weave together a biography of William Cooper, a history of the community of Cooperstown and the Otsego County hinterland, and a study of a frontier-speculator father and his American novelist son?  What makes Taylor’s account so compelling?
  • What “levels” and facets of community does this study explore?  What do we learn from Taylor’s history of Cooperstown and Otsego County?