Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Hiroshi Kitamura

Committee Member

Fabricio Prado

Committee Member

Simon Middleton


Literary Continuities: British Books and the Britishness of Their Early American Readers People get their worldview from what they read. in a reading-saturated society such as 18th-century America, the most popular books determined the public consciousness. as such, the origin of these books must be carefully examined. Herein lies the question of whose books and ideas were popularized. According to quantitative analysis of primary evidence gathered from private and public library collections as well as booksellers' advertisements and inventories, the majority of books read in 18th-century America could be considered British more than American. Before, during, and after the American Revolution the most popular and highly culturally valued books were still British. This explains the continued Britishness of Americans even after they declared and won political independence. Few scholars consider the implication of the origin of early American ideas, particularly in the study of popular books, leading to a common misconception about the rate at which American society became wholly American. Imperative Education: The Politics of Reading and Advice in Colonial American Colleges Harvard, William & Mary, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Rutgers, and Dartmouth were all founded in some iteration before the American Revolution. Amazingly, these colleges are rarely studied collectively. Even more individualized is the discussion of their early college libraries. These book collections determined the range of knowledge available to students, so the people who decided which books were included had a great deal of power over the colleges. Library benefactors across the American colonies and from institution to institution had quite similar reasons for donating certain books. This commonality can be called imperative education, a scheme through which books were donated to consciously further the donor's value system and assign it as truth. Such a structure means the nine colonial colleges were pieces of one movement rather than polarized individual entities fighting religious representation wars as they are often misrepresented. Their charters and founding documents back up the universality of imperative education. The general idea that students' reading habits needed to be strictly controlled is also apparent in controversies surrounding several of the institutions in their early years.



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