Marital Economies of Early America

AHA Session 65
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Nassau West (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Sarah Pearsall, Cambridge University
Marrying into a Colony: The Economies of French-Native Intermarriage
Michaela Kleber, College of William and Mary
In My Mother’s House: Dowry Property in Spanish Florida
Susan Richbourg Parker, University of Florida-Flagler College Historic St. Augustine Research Institute
The Audience

Session Abstract

Marriage serves to illuminate many different kinds of power: state and church, familial and economic. Scholars have persuasively argued in the past fifty years that regulating marriages was a critical part of the effort in modern European states to centralize and create modern nation states, an effort that was often contested by the church. Historians have also shown the crucial role that kinship played in economic ventures, particularly across oceans. However, the unique circumstances of early America demanded changes to those state, church, and familial strategies as Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans created new societies and built new economies. Bringing together the historiographies that show marriage as an economic institution and marriage as a tool in state creation, this panel focuses specifically on the real economies created by marriage in early America and explores their roles in building a colonial society. How did marriages engage with colonial, Atlantic, and early American economies? How did the experience of early America, with its diverse peoples, cultures, and transatlantic economies, affect people's marital strategies? How did people adapt their marital strategies to survive and thrive in the new economies of early America? How did strategies differ within and between empires, and what aspects of the local context drove that difference? Drawing on examples from British, French, Spanish, and Caribbean colonies, this panel seeks to understand the diverse ways that marital economies worked in European colonies across vast early America.
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