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Grant number like: FB-50510-04

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Steven C. Bullock
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA 01609-2280)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2005 – 2/28/2006

The Politics of Politeness: Culture, Class, and Power in Provincial America, 1690-1776

As Bernard Bailyn's classic Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967) emphasizes, restraining power formed a fundamental theme of eighteenth-century political thought. Bailyn's account stresses structural issues such as elections and mixed government. But the problem was not simply constitutional; it was also cultural. My project explores the interconnections between politics, politeness, and emotions. Eighteenth-century discussions about and the presentations of power and taste, it argues, belonged to a common discourse that developed out of English examples and colonial experiences in the years after 1690. To trace these developments, I explore the experiences of six figures who operated at this intersection of authority and gentility. Their experiences, and their settings, are diverse, sometimes unique. But the difficulties they experienced were not merely idiosyncratic. They shared, or were forced to respond to, a common language and emotional style based on restraint and sympathy. And their experiences reveal the close relationship between politeness (the discipline of the self) and power (the discipline of others) in the creation of eighteenth-century culture and government.