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The Overflowing of Friendship

Love between Men and the Creation of the American Republic

Richard Godbeer

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When eighteenth-century American men described "with a swelling of the heart" their friendships with other men, addressing them as "lovely boy" and "dearly beloved," celebrating the "ardent affection" that knit their hearts in "indissoluble bonds of fraternal love," their families, neighbors, and acquaintances would have been neither surprised nor disturbed.

Richard Godbeer’s groundbreaking new book examines loving and sentimental friendships among men in the colonial and revolutionary periods. Inspired in part by the eighteenth-century culture of sensibility and in part by religious models…

When eighteenth-century American men described "with a swelling of the heart" their friendships with other men, addressing them as "lovely boy" and "dearly beloved," celebrating the "ardent affection" that knit their hearts in "indissoluble bonds of fraternal love," their families, neighbors, and acquaintances would have been neither surprised nor disturbed.

Richard Godbeer’s groundbreaking new book examines loving and sentimental friendships among men in the colonial and revolutionary periods. Inspired in part by the eighteenth-century culture of sensibility and in part by religious models, these relationships were not only important to the personal happiness of those involved but also had broader social, religious, and political significance.

Godbeer shows that in the aftermath of Independence, patriots drafted a central place for male friendship in their social and political blueprint for the new republic. American revolutionaries stressed the importance of the family in the era of self-government, reimagining it in ways appropriate to a new and democratized era. They thus shifted attention away from patriarchal authority to a more egalitarian model of brotherly collaboration. In striving to explore the inner emotional lives of early Americans, Godbeer succeeds in presenting an entirely fresh perspective on the personal relationships and political structures of the period.

Scholars have long recognized the importance of same-sex friendships among women, but this is the first book to examine the broad significance ascribed to loving friendships among men during this formative period of American history. Using an array of personal and public writings, The Overflowing of Friendship will transform our understanding of early American manhood as well as challenge us to reconsider the ways we think about gender in this period.

Reviews

Reviews

A sophisticated analysis of sources that have long confused historians. Offering a thoughtful window onto the world of early American men, it demonstrates that sympathy and affection were important qualities for the founding fathers.

His beautifully crafted book breaks important new ground by connecting the ideal of sympathetic fraternal love to the reconceptualization of politics and political community in revolutionary America.

Godbeer follows his earlier studies of sexuality in early America with this impressively erudite study of male friendship, as expressed in letters, journals, and other literary forms, from the Puritan days to the early republic of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.

Godbeer's evocative narrative format allows the reader to enter a lost world of sentiment and even physical affection between men. Godbeer complicates, as others have before him, the modern binaries of sexuality, but he also argues that male friendship provides a new way of seeing familiar faces and analyzing familiar events of colonial British North American history in the eighteenth century.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
272
ISBN
9781421413839
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. "The Friend of My Bosom": A Philadelphian Love Story
2. "A Settled Portion of My Happiness": Friendship, Sentiment, and Eighteenth-Century Manhood
3. "The Best Blessing We

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. "The Friend of My Bosom": A Philadelphian Love Story
2. "A Settled Portion of My Happiness": Friendship, Sentiment, and Eighteenth-Century Manhood
3. "The Best Blessing We Know": Male Love and Spiritual Communion in Early America
4. "A Band of Brothers": Fraternal Love in the Continental Army
5. "The Overflowing of Friendship": Friends, Brothers, and Citizens in a Republic of Sympathy
Epilogue
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Richard Godbeer, Ph.D.

Richard Godbeer is a professor of history at the University of Miami. His books include Sexual Revolution in Early America, also published by Johns Hopkins, The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents, Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692, and The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England.