Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities” as Want to Read:
The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  110 ratings  ·  11 reviews
This lively and authoritative volume makes clear that the quest for taste and manners in America has been essential to the serious pursuit of a democratic culture. Spanning the material world from mansions and silverware to etiquette books, city planning, and sentimental novels, Richard L. Bushman shows how a set of values originating in aristocratic court culture graduall ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published August 31st 1993 by Vintage (first published 1992)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Refinement of America, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Refinement of America

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 261)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sluggo
Horace Bushnell, a congregationalist minister, was one of the people who attempted to resolve some of the contradictions between belief in a republican form of government and an emulation of the gentility handed down from european monarchies. I found this interesting:

"The creation of human taste, he went on to say with astounding confidence, were extensions of the original divine creative act. 'Architecture, gardening , music, dress, chaste and elegant manners- all inventions of human taste- are
...more
John
I enjoyed this one so much that I chose to apply Bushman's main thesis to the settlement of Maine for one of my final papers. Granted, this is pretty dense, and not every chapter is enthralling all the way through. The wealth of information Bushman packs into this thing, though, is pretty impressive. I don't see how he could cover anything else, he gets to: fancy houses in eighteenth century Delaware, courtesy books, grand staircases and gardens, the fancifying of the old stodgy New England meet ...more
David Bates
In his 1992 work The Refinement of America Richard Bushman proposes that an aristocratic culture of gentility shaped early American society and capitalism. Drawing on the material culture of 18th and 19th century American city planning, architecture, fashions and luxury objects Bushman traces its progressive diffusion from the colonial elite into the middle class of the early republic. From its inception in the styles of the aristocratic courts that clustered around centralizing monarchs in the ...more
Sam Newton
American colonists had an "obsessive desire to achieve gentility." They tried to refine themselves and be British.

• Why did the parlor become so important?
• Wealthy families built mansions, European goods, mastering polite behavior, handwriting, body, speech, dress. “Obsessive desire to achieve gentility”
• Americans used to be functional, in two room houses. Now they're in mansions, parlors, etc.
• Social life was an unrelenting performance. Big parlors, grand staircases, balls, concerts
• The low
...more
Theresa Rothschadl
This book has profoundly changed the way I think about material culture, both as a former museum professional and as a current thinking person. Turns out beautiful things aren't just aesthetic pleasures--they're also tools for domination.
Kuva
A very entertaining book that goes into a lot of interesting depth about the role manners and material culture played among ambitious Americans in the colonial period. It also makes strong connections to how many of these objects/styles/modes of thought derived from European practices. It's not as strong in talking about political and social context in America, in distinguishing different regions, or in mixing its analysis with a more overt discussion of women, African-Americans, or Native Ameri ...more
Angela
I learned a lot about the culture of the American elite through the mid-19th century, and how that is reflected in their possessions, houses, and city development. However, it is a very academic book. The first two chapters were a difficult introduction, if you are unfamiliar with the topic, but once you "get" them, you "get" the book. Later chapters get repetitive.
Kristine
Interesting book about the changing of early log cabin, plain living America to the emergence of a separate wealthier class who built grand homes and lived more refined lives during the late 1700's and early 1800's.
Lclawson
An excellent commentary about Americans, their bewildering array of stuff, and what it all meant.
Amelia
One of my all time favorites...18th century America, houses, I love them all!
Joshua
TOTALLY JAWSOME
Brenda
Brenda marked it as to-read
Mar 03, 2015
Guy
Guy marked it as to-read
Mar 01, 2015
Cristina
Cristina marked it as to-read
Mar 01, 2015
Sharon Miller
Sharon Miller marked it as to-read
Feb 28, 2015
Mira Alecci
Mira Alecci marked it as to-read
Feb 20, 2015
Aggienclara
Aggienclara marked it as to-read
Feb 18, 2015
Sarah
Sarah is currently reading it
Feb 17, 2015
Mary Cornelius
Mary Cornelius marked it as to-read
Feb 13, 2015
Zachary Ferreira
Zachary Ferreira marked it as to-read
Feb 09, 2015
The Ninja Squirrel
The Ninja Squirrel marked it as to-read
Feb 06, 2015
Kristen
Kristen marked it as to-read
Feb 05, 2015
Rosella
Rosella marked it as to-read
Jan 30, 2015
Christine Ison
Christine Ison marked it as to-read
Jan 28, 2015
Erica
Erica added it
Jan 26, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic
  • In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life
  • The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
  • Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia
  • Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America
  • Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750 1800
  • White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
  • The Confederate War: How Popular Will, Nationalism, and Military Strategy Could Not Stave Off Defeat
  • The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado
  • Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
  • Social Darwinism in American Thought
  • The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
  • America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s
  • The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
  • The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity
  • Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War
  • Homeward Bound: American Families In The Cold War Era
Richard Bushman published widely in early American social and cultural history before completing his biography, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Among his books were From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 and The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. He teaches courses on Mormonism in its broad social and cultural context and on the history of ...more
More about Richard L. Bushman...
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary Believing History: Latter-Day Saint Essays

Share This Book