Date of Award

Spring 1994

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


This is the study of one family's work in its expansive local and regional context, and how that work linked together most aspects of colonial life. Stratham, New Hampshire's Samuel Lane was a shoemaker, tanner, surveyor and farmer whose records--diaries, Day Books and miscellaneous papers--chronicle over sixty years of the eighteenth century. This thesis explores many specific devices used to live in that world. The exhaustive routine recorded, monotonous in its repetition, holds the germs of fundamental change.

The record's longevity and single viewpoint emphasizes connections rather than separations in rural family life, highlights complex relationships, and dissolves traditional historiographical dichotomies: male/female; household economy/market economy; agriculture /trade; and urban/rural. Although domestic production offers the illusion of self-sufficiency and market isolation, in reality that production gave the household power to participate in wide ranging markets rather than limiting it to some minimal standard of living.

Because Samuel Lane's life spanned most of the eighteenth century, change is an important, but subtle part of this story. Routine subsumes the dramatic effect of change, but over time similar activities conveyed different meanings. Lane tried to bequeath his children the world of his parents but it had changed, and unconsciously he with it. When he died in 1806 his outlook was more secular, market-oriented and consumption-minded than when he moved to Stratham in 1741. And his children, although raised in this conventional household, had changed with him.

Lane's world formed a social, cultural and economic continuum at any given point in time and over time. Significantly, his account of "setling in the World" included his generation and that of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His life has much to contribute to the discussion of colonial family life and economic behavior. Although he used markets and embraced capitalistic processes in rural New Hampshire, his outlook was traditional. Ironically, in a changing world that fostered the very change it anticipated avoiding.