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Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century
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Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century. An inquiry into the origin of the higher planting class, together with an account of the habits, customs, and diversions of the people Philip Alexander Bruce. Paperback, (1907, 1995), 2012, 5½x8½, paper, index, 268 pp.
At the time of the original publication of this volume, no book with the exception of Robert Beverly’s History of Virginia had really dealt with the social aspects of seventeenth century Virginia. And Beverly’s history, while full of details, really relates to the last years of the seventeenth century and the first years of the eighteenth century. Because of the non-existence of travel memoirs, or extended biographies of prominent citizens or any other obvious sources, the author, to acquire an accurate conception of Virginian social life from 1607 to 1700, examined a large mass of miscellaneous materials primarily concerned with other subjects including the pamphlets preserved in Force’s Historical Tracts, Virginian parish registers, and the several hundred volumes of Virginia’s county records that had survived to 1907.
There are chapters exploring such topics as size and population, the origins of the higher planting class, social distinctions, ties with the mother country, manner of life, hospitality of the people, drinking, dancing, acting, games, horse-racing, hunting, fishing, funerals, weddings, church, court day, muster, dueling and others. There is also an appendix dealing with the non-English settlers and their influence. The author’s premise that the most remarkable feature of seventeenth century Virginia social life was its resemblance to the social life of England is explored in great detail throughout. Anyone interested in early Virginia customs and habits will find this social history both enjoyable and informative.