'The middling order are odious characters': social structure and urban growth in colonial Charleston, South Carolina

Emma Frances Katherine Hart

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

In recent years, the idea that Britain and its northern American colonies were part of a single ‘British Atlantic world’ has provided historians of both the Old World and the New with a novel perspective from which to explore their subjects during the long eighteenth century. With a case study of Charleston, South Carolina, this essay extends British categories of analysis across the Atlantic to uncover the origins of an American middle class. Emphasis is placed on the simultaneous consideration of all arenas of identity formation, with a view to demonstrating that examining either the cultural sphere or the economic one cannot bring a genuine understanding of the coherence of this eighteenth-century middling sort. Investigating the emergence of this social group in the widest possible sense, I show how the economic experience of these middling people forged common values which then found their expression in the cultural and political sphere. Since this middle sort achieved such coherence before 1776 I suggest that we must move away from accounts that depict colonial society as a place of binary opposites and occupational groupings, for such models cannot convey the complexity of the British Atlantic urban society that took shape during this era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-226
Number of pages18
JournalUrban History
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007

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