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Passion Is the Gale

Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution

Nicole Eustace

Publisher: Omohundro Institute
Imprint: OIEAHC
Published: 12/2012
Pages: 624
Subject: Colonial, Revolutionary Era & Early American History,British History
Print ISBN: 9780807871980
eBook ISBN: 9780807838792


At the outset of the eighteenth century, many British Americans accepted the notion that virtuous sociable feelings occurred primarily among the genteel, while sinful and selfish passions remained the reflexive emotions of the masses, from lower-class whites to Indians to enslaved Africans. Yet by 1776 radicals would propose a new universal model of human nature that attributed the same feelings and passions to all humankind and made common emotions the basis of natural rights. In Passion Is the Gale, Nicole Eustace describes the promise and the problems of this crucial social and political transition by charting changes in emotional expression among countless ordinary men and women of British America.

From Pennsylvania newspapers, pamphlets, sermons, correspondence, commonplace books, and literary texts, Eustace identifies the explicit vocabulary of emotion as a medium of human exchange. Alternating between explorations of particular emotions in daily social interactions and assessments of emotional rhetoric's functions in specific moments of historical crisis (from the Seven Years War to the rise of the patriot movement), she makes a convincing case for the pivotal role of emotion in reshaping power relations and reordering society in the critical decades leading up to the Revolution. As Eustace demonstrates, passion was the gale that impelled Anglo-Americans forward to declare their independence--collectively at first, and then, finally, as individuals.


Nicole Eustace is associate professor of history at New York University.


"Eustace's unique contribution adds to the already bountiful number of volumes on the subject. . . . Well written and encompassing. . . . Recommended."

"An important book in a field of growing appeal, and the University of North Carolina Press have given it a beautiful production."
--Times Literary Supplement

"Eustace's meticulous exploration of feeling's intersections with gender, race, class, and variety of power plays situates her book in the new history of emotion, but it is equally grounded in the older history of ideas."
--American Historical Review

"Tackle[s] an original and important subject and elegantly explain[s] complex developments with great clarity. . . . Exemplifies the best of recent cultural history by effectively fusing intellectual and social history."
--Journal of American History

"Fascinating. . . . An impressive body of evidence that incorporates personal journals, commonplace books, correspondence, political and religious tracts, public records, and newspapers. . . . An eminently humane piece of scholarship."
--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

"In this provocative study, Eustace boldly advances a 'history of eighteenth-century American emotion'. . . . Strikingly original readings of a wide range of documents."
--Journal of Interdisciplinary History