JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC (Summer 2005) One cannot help but be impressed by such an ambitious work. What makes Wells's achievement even more impressive is that his ambition is for the most part confirmed by his deep research and carefully qualified conclusions. That there are exceptions in no way detracts from this book's achievements. It is curious, for example, that Wells makes little of Richard Bushman's important work on gentility and its complex role in the formation of middle-class identity in this period. This omission is all the more glaring not only because of the general lack of interest in the region displayed by The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992), but because of its conclusion--almost certainly wrong--that ``the burden of testimony still upholds the image of southern culture as a desert with oases'' (397). If there is anybody to assess that statement with authority it is Jonathan Wells, but he lets the opportunity slip by. That's a pity, but there is so much to admire in this book that such an omission seems minor. The Origins of the Southern Middle Class addresses other, equally important, issues and introduces a number of new ones. It is
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Jun 13, 2005
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