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“Quite a Genteel and Extreamly Commodious House”

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Southern Taverns, Anxious Elites, and the British-American Quest for Social Differentiation

image of Journal of Early American History

When investigated through the tavern space, the processes of social differentiation so often associated with more populated northern “urban crucibles” appear less geographically determined than previously supposed. Colonial elites throughout British North America attempted to impose order and control over society during the eighteenth century. Elites’ quest for social differentiation and public order thus went beyond place. Whether patricians’ efforts occurred in Williamsburg or New York, such endeavors centered around the colonies’ most popular, accessible, and numerous public space—the tavern. This article will use Chesapeake and Low Country taverns to demonstrate, through outwardly broad but nonetheless effective comparisons with taverns in the northern colonies, that colonists throughout the eastern seaboard experienced very similar processes of social differentiation despite living thousands of miles apart. The tavern places Chesapeake and Low Country urban centers on an equal footing with their northern counterparts in their contributions to elites’ attempts at order and control.

Affiliations: 1: University of Central Arkansas,


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