Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Tom Arne Midtrød
Inspired by feminist historians who called upon scholars to examine gender as a socially constructed phenomenon, this project's overarching goal is to historicize manhood by providing a survey of men's experiences as men from the late sixteenth- to the late-eighteenth-century. Specifically, it explores, how, why, and in what ways hegemonic norms of manhood changed in Massachusetts from its founding to the ratification of the United States Constitution. It also investigates the formation of and relationships between hegemonic and subordinate masculinities in the early modern British Atlantic. Both the transmission and reception of manhood in early Massachusetts are explored. That is, I have consulted the books, novels, plays, newspapers, and laws, that formulated, established, and enforced hegemonic norms, and men's letters, diaries, letterbooks, and commentary which evince their assimilation. I have tried to explain what masculine ideals obtained over time, and what men did to reach those standards. Not all my conclusions fit tidily into the existing historiography on early American manhood. Early chapters complicate the picture typically painted of Puritan Massachusetts's patriarchal gendered order. By highlighting its fraternal networks of gendered power, I found that a bifurcated gendered order was largely responsible for the civilization's unique social stability. Historians examining this subject generally conclude that men's ideas about what it meant to be a man changed little from the founding of the colonies to the outbreak of the American Revolution. The standard narrative is that a communal manhood prevailed throughout America until the very end of the eighteenth-century when it was suddenly replaced by a more individualistic "manliness." Not until after the liberating forces of the Revolution, the market economy, and political democracy had reshaped American society, it is asserted, were men truly able to pursue individualistic goals in their personal and professional lives. I discovered that this dating is late by about a century, and that historians have mistaken causes for effects in the relationship between the American Revolution and the rise of autonomous manhood. It was not a consequence of the Revolution, I argue here, but a cause of the event.
Copyright 2012 Matthew James Reardon