Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Review of "If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days," by Barbara Brenner

Review of
If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days, by Barbara Brenner ISBN 0590929224

Four out of five stars
 This is a superb history book about one of the primary cities in the original thirteen American colonies. Due to the rich soil, cheap slave labor and the strong cash crop of tobacco, Virginia was the dominant colony in terms of wealth and political power. It was possible to develop large farms, creating a landed gentry that filled the void of an aristocracy. The wealth from agriculture spilled over into the professional classes that practiced trades and led to the development of universities, performance houses and other public works.
The year selected for this presentation is 1770, when there was the growing movement of opposition against the British Crown but before there was an actual rebellion. Half of the population of approximately two thousand in Williamsburg were black and most of them were slaves. It was a thriving town with churches and William and Mary University.
 The explanations of how the people lived are accurate and presented at the level of the last years of elementary school. It is a snapshot in history, where the big change was percolating, but not yet boiling. Life was hard for most, yet it was possible for people to have fun. While a few women were educated, their schooling ended when they had learned the basics of keeping house and reading, writing and arithmetic. Higher education such as Greek and Latin were considered frivolous for women.
 A worthy addition to any library of history books for grades 4 – 7, this is a book that presents the lives of some of the people of Williamsburg. The flaw is that while it is stated that almost half of the population were slaves, there is very little ink spent in describing what their lives were like.

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