Bernard Bailyn has recently reinterpreted the early history of the United States by applying new social research findings on the experiences of European migrants. In his reinterpretation, migration becomes the organizing principle for rewriting the history of preindustrial North America. His approach rests on four separate propositions.
The first of these asserts that residents of early modern England moved regularly about their countryside; migrating to the New World was simply a “natural spillover.” Although at first the colonies held little positive attraction for the English—they would rather have stayed home—by the eighteenth century people increasingly migrated to America because they regarded it as the land of opportunity. Secondly, Bailyn holds that, contrary to the notion that used to flourish in America history textbooks, there was never a typical New World community. For example, the economic and demographic character of early New England towns varied considerably.
Bailyn’s third proposition suggests two general patterns prevailing among the many thousands of migrants: one group came as indentured servants, another came to acquire land. Surprisingly, Bailyn suggests that those who recruited indentured servants were the driving forces of transatlantic migration. These colonial entrepreneurs helped determine the social character of people who came to preindustrial North America. At first, thousands of unskilled laborers were recruited; by the 1730’s, however, American employers demanded skilled artisans.
Finally, Bailyn argues that the colonies were a half-civilized hinterland of the European culture system. He is undoubtedly correct to insist that the colonies were part of an Anglo-American empire. But to divide the empire into English core and colonial periphery, as Bailyn does, devalues the achievements of colonial culture. It is true, as Bailyn claims, that high culture in the colonies never matched that in England. But what of seventeenth-century New England, where the settlers created effective laws, built a distinguished university, and published books? Bailyn might respond that New England was exceptional. However, the ideas and institutions developed by New England Puritans had powerful effects on North American culture.
Although Bailyn goes on to apply his approach to some thousands of indentured servants who migrated just prior to the revolution, he fails to link their experience with the political development of the United States. Evidence presented in his work suggests how we might make such a connection. These indentured servants were treated as slaves for the period during which they had sold their time to American employers. It is not surprising that as soon as they served their time they passed up good wages in the cities and headed west to ensure their personal independence by acquiring land. Thus, it is in the west that a peculiarly American political culture began, among colonists who were suspicious of authority and intensely anti-aristocratic.
Question: Which of the following statements about migrants to colonial North America is supported by information in the passage?
- A larger percentage of migrants to colonial North America came as indentured servants than as free agents interested in acquiring land.
- Migrants who came to the colonies as indentured servants were more successful at making a livelihood than were farmers and artisans.
- Migrants to colonial North America were more successful at acquiring their own land during the eighteenth century than during the seven-tenth century.
- By the 1730’s, migrants already skilled in a trade were in more demand by American employers than were unskilled laborers.
- A significant percentage of migrants who came to the colonies to acquire land were forced to work as field hands for prosperous American farmers.
Question: The author of the passage states that Bailyn failed to
- give sufficient emphasis to the cultural and political interdependence of the colonies and England
- describe carefully how migrants of different ethnic backgrounds preserved their culture in the united States
- take advantage of social research on the experiences of colonists who migrated to colonial North America specifically to acquire land
- relate the experience of the migrants to the political values that eventually shaped the character of the United States
- investigate the lives of Europeans before they came to colonial North America to determine more adequately their motivations for migrating
Question: Which of the following best summarizes the author’s evaluation of Bailyn’s fourth proposition?
- It is totally implausible.
- It is partially correct.
- It is highly admirable.
- It is controversial though persuasive.
- It is intriguing though unsubstantiated.
Question: According to the passage, Bailyn and the author agree on which of the following statements about the culture of colonial New England?
- High culture in New England never equaled the high culture of England.
- The cultural achievements of colonial New England have generally been unrecognized by historians.
- The colonists imitated the high culture of England, and did not develop a culture that was uniquely their own.
- The southern colonies were greatly influenced by the high culture of New England.
- New England communities were able to create laws and build a university, but unable to create anything innovative in the arts.
Question: According to the passage, which of the following is true of English migrants to the colonies during the eighteenth century?
- Most of them were farmers rather than trades people or artisans.
- Most of them came because they were unable to find work in England.
- They differed from other English people in that they were willing to travel.
- They expected that the colonies would offer them increased opportunity.
- They were generally not as educated as the people who remained in England.
Question: The author of the passage is primarily concerned with
- comparing several current interpretations of early American history
- suggesting that new social research on migration should lead to revisions in current interpretations of early American history
- providing the theoretical framework that is used by most historians in understanding early American history
- refuting an argument about early American history that has been proposed by social historians
- discussing a reinterpretation of early American history that is based on new social research on migration
Question: It can be inferred from the passage that American history textbooks used to assert that
- many migrants to colonial North America were not successful financially
- more migrants came to America out of religious or political conviction that came in the hope of acquiring land
- New England communities were much alike in terms of their economics and demographics
- many migrants to colonial North America failed to maintain ties with their European relations
- the level of literacy in New England communities was very high
Question: The author of the passage would be most likely to agree with which of the following statements about Bailyn’s work?
- Bailyn underestimates the effects of Puritan thought on North American culture.
- Bailyn overemphasizes the economic dependence of the colonies on Great Britain.
- Bailyn’s description of the colonies as part of an Anglo-American empire is misleading and incorrect.
- Bailyn failed to test his propositions on a specific group of migrants to colonial North America.
- Bailyn overemphasizes the experiences of migrants to the New England colonies, and neglects the southern and the western parts of the New World.
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