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Between Land and Sea

Between Land and Sea: The Atlantic Coast and the Transformation of New England

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    Between Land and Sea
    Book Description:

    Christopher Pastore traces how Narragansett Bay’s ecology shaped the contours of European habitation, trade, and resource use, and how littoral settlers in turn, over two centuries, transformed a marshy fractal of water and earth into a clearly defined coastline, which proved less able to absorb the blows of human initiative and natural variation.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73607-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE: From Sweetwater to Seawater (pp. 1-10)

    “But for their later Descent, and whence they came . . . ,” wrote Roger Williams of the Narragansett Indians in 1643, “it seemes as hard to finde, as . . . theWell-headof some freshStreame,which running many miles out of theCountreyto the saltOcean,hath met with many mixing Streames by the way.” That Williams, new to the shores of Narragansett Bay, likened the history of his Indian neighbors to the myriad inlets and outlets of an estuary was no coincidence. The Bay and its upland sources, its tidal ebb and flood, and even...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Clams, Dams, and the Desiccation of New England (pp. 11-49)

    In July 1636, the coastal trader John Gallop weighed anchor from a harbor in eastern Connecticut and steered his bark of twenty tons southwest toward Long Island. Sailing before what was likely a fickle, northerly wind across the placid waters of the Sound, Gallop, traveling with a man and two boys, was forced to abandon his intended destination when the wind shifted. Changing course, he sailed east into the open ocean toward Manisses, or Block Island, a pear-shaped splotch of land seventeen miles east of Montauk and twelve miles south of the Narragansett Country. About two miles north of the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Shoveling Dung Against the Tide (pp. 50-81)

    “The Produce of this Colony,” wrote the Anglican minister James MacSparran of Narragansett in 1753, “is principally Butter and Cheese, fat Cattle, Wool and fine Horses, that are exported to all parts of theEnglish America.” Although MacSparran praised the horses for their “fleetness and swift Pacing,” his description of Rhode Island was also disparaging. More than three hundred vessels “from 60 tons and upwards,” MacSparran observed with reproach, called the waters of Narragansett Bay home, and some of them shipped this “produce” of Rhode Island’s plantations to points throughout the colonies. “[B]ut,” he groused, “as they [the ships] are...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Geographic Quicksilver of Narragansett Bay (pp. 82-129)

    As the smoke lifted following King Philip’s War, in 1678 or 1679 a curious man with a curious name settled at the head of Pettaquamscutt Pond at the northern tip of the eponymous tidal river, the original seat of the Narragansett sachem Miantonomi. According to Yale President Ezra Stiles, who at the end of eighteenth century interviewed a neighbor, the man known as Theophilus Whale “built himself a little under-ground hut in a high bank, or side hill, at the north end or head of the pond.”¹ He subsisted, Stiles noted, by fishing, weaving, and writing.² Whale spoke Hebrew, Latin,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Natural Knowledge and a Bay in Transition (pp. 130-160)

    The winter of 1740, recalled William Greene of Warwick, on Narragansett Bay’s western shore, “was the coldest known in New England since the memory of man.” According to Greene’s account, which was recorded as a “memorandum” and discovered by his great-grandson a century later, “extreme cold” hit in early November and continued with such “considerable force” that by December the Bay had frozen solid. The people of Providence, Bristol, and Newport, Greene recalled, ambled between the towns over the ice. A Boston paper reported that “Shays & Slays” passed to and fro over Newport Harbor. So deep was the freeze...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Improving Coastal Space During a Century of War (pp. 161-195)

    Purchased from the Narragansett Indians by a group of Newport planters in 1657, Conanicut Island forms, at its southernmost end, a convex, symmetrical point that, extending from the main body of the island, darts southward into the sea. Perhaps it was just coincidence that Dutch pelt traders had set up shop in the area during the first years of the seventeenth century. Or perhaps the trade in fur had fueled the imagination of those who bestowed English place names. But when the island’s contours were laid on paper, there was no doubt that its southern tip, known as “Beavertail,” clearly...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Carving the Industrial Coastline (pp. 196-227)

    Just above the tidewater at Mill Bridge in Providence, a large crowd gathered on the morning of July 1, 1828. Dressed in his finest, Rhode Island Governor James Fenner joined fifty notable citizens aboard what could only be described as a “gentleman’s barge.” Seventy feet long, nine-and-a-half feet wide, and drawing only eight or nine inches of water, theLady Carringtonwas fitted with a low-lying cabin top, “conveniently and neatly arranged,” explained a local newspaper, which extended almost the full length of its hull. Hundreds had gathered along the river’s banks to inspect, and perhaps even scoff at, a...

  11. EPILOGUE: Between Progress and the Pull of the Sea (pp. 228-238)

    “[W]e are in a sense amphibious,” suggested Strabo in his geography of the ancient world, “not exclusively connected with the land, but with the sea as well. . . . [T]he sea and earth in which we dwell,” he continued, “furnish theaters for action; limited for limited actions; vast for grander deeds.”¹ The space between land and sea, explained the historian and philosopher, responded to human desires and shaped them in return. For Strabo, humans were inherently intertidal. The nexus of dry land and ocean provided “theaters” for both the steady march of quotidian progress and all things extraordinary and...

  12. Notes (pp. 239-286)
  13. Acknowledgments (pp. 287-292)
  14. Index (pp. 293-302)