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A Little Commonwealth
In his, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony, John Demos seeks to underscore the lifestyles of the puritan community in the 17th century. Written close to thirty years ago, the book unearths the way of life of this community in light of different social, legal and economic aspects. To accredit the information presented therein, the author uses a wide range of primary sources including information from diaries, marriage documents and even excavations. The author begins by providing the audience with a brief history about the colony. He provides an explicit analysis of the kind of life populations from England led until 1691 when the lifestyle changed. The book is categorized in three main sections with the first one evaluating the physical setting of the population. Then, the author underscores the household structure of this and finally analyzes the general development of puritans in the 17th century from their childhood to old age. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the three themes; Plymouth material setting, work-home-family relationships, and the 17th century life cycle and seeks to underscore the fact that the lifestyle of the Plymouth colonists did not have extremities as it had been posited earlier on. As it will come out from the study, the kind of life that this population led had significant similarities to the life that the then historic communities assumed.
While introducing the Plymouth material setting, Demos demonstrates that the colonists constituted a puritan population that initially left England and instead settled in Holland as a way of escaping the persecutions that were typical of the respective period of time (Demos, 23). They later on moved from Holland to the new world after having stayed in the former for a period of ten years. Securing effective transport that would enable them to arrive in the new word safely is cited to have been a very complex and demanding process. Through their widespread negotiations, they managed to liaise with Thomas Weston who offered them transportation to their ultimate destination.
They arrived in this destination some time before Christmas and were faced with innumerable challenges. Compared to Holland, they found the region to have different extreme conditions that undermined their ability to cope effectively. The extreme temperatures were particularly hostile and by the time spring approached, Demos indicates that a significant percentage of the colonists, constituting nearly half had died. It is for this reason that they found it imperative to initiate friendship with the native Indians. Notably, they benefited immensely from this friendship as they learnt of practical and viable ways that would enable them deal with the intrinsic challenges with ease.
Meanwhile, it is indicated that they devised viable strategies with respect to societal governance and established important relative structures. With respect to governance, Demos indicates that they established the post of a governor, put in place vital institutions such as a general court and established the social status of freemen that provided instrumental services to the top political leaders in the structure. The activities of the church were also considered vital in societal functioning. Essentially, they hired ministers to carry out relative religious services, conducted spiritual services normally and participated in punishing the wayward individuals as a fundamental way of upholding important social values (Demos 43).
Notably, the life and material environment of the colonialists in this regard were typical of that of other conventional societies who were also undergoing liberalization during this period of time. The changes that were introduced led to conflicts with the native Indians that found the characteristic conditions to contravene their way of life. The conflicts were a common affair that both the Indians and colonialists bore until the Indians finally defeated the colonists during the war of King Philip. Basically, it is indicated that the colonialists lived an easy life that reflected the then social conditions.
In his review, Demos indicates that the colonialists essentially lived a simple life that was devoid of various complexities that characterize current communities (Demos 46). Just like their conventional counterparts, they lived in single roomed houses that had a large fire place. This was imperative for conditioning and providing essential warmth to counter the extreme weather conditions. Notably, current populations also face diverse challenges that stem from the extreme weather conditions. Usually, these threaten their survival and hence they require conditioning to address the relative difficulties. The house also had storage and sleeping areas that performed different functions. Storage of food to be consumed during extreme weather conditions is a conventional conception that has been employed since historical times to safeguard the welfare of communities during certain times of the year.
Demos cite that the housing structures were essentially made of thatched roof and oak timber covered with plunks (Demos 67). Apart from the small and simple houses, it is indicated that there were also large houses although these were essentially employed by the wealthy factions of the population. This can be attributed to the inequitable resource distribution that accords some individuals an upper hand with respect to access of vital resources for survival. This is common in the current society as it can not be disputed that it is characterized by a high degree of stratification. There are wealthier individuals who live in houses that are more sophisticated than the rest of the population. Likewise, this can be attributed to the inherent differences with respect to resource allocation and distribution. While some populations live in spacious apartments in city suburbs, others live in poorly conditioned small houses that do not cater for their entire needs.
Also, it is cited that the furnishings employed in the home environment by the colonialists were equally simple. The essential facilities in this regard entailed very few utensils, a bed and a table. In most cases, these were also employed as sitting, sleeping and eating if there was need for this. Th.............
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