The term culture is somewhat a multifaceted characteristic of a people that is somewhat difficult to define in simple terms. Social scientists have developed several definition of the term culture however, the simplest definition terms culture as a combination of accepted character among the people living within a community1. In general, every community has an accepted character defined by personal perceptions, attitudes, motivation, background, social class and personality. In the same regard, the American community has had its culture under consistent shift. During the colonial and the revolutionary period, the American culture was defined by several factors including the desire to independently own land and fight for what was believed to be the rights of every individuals. Ragosta argues some of the ideologies that the American culture of the colonial era included equality in opportunity, individualism and democracy2. This paper reviews the concept of culture through the colonial and the revolutionary period in the American history.
The colonial period in the United States is the period between the late 1500s through to early 18th century. The American community was composed of Native Americans, Germans, British, East Anglians, Welsh, Dutch and Africans among other. The collection these communities in a single location tend to have a definite tendency towards conflict. Butler asserts that most of the cultural efforts were directed at getting a mesh of homogeneity in cultural practice3. Most of the Americans who had relocated to the United States were looking to blend their cultural practices into one solid culture. However, this cultural uniformity did not include all communities. African and Indian communities were perceived different and thus were not included in the uniformity strives of the then American culture.
The kind of cultural convergence that was envisaged by most of colonial America was the use of religion and in particular Protestant Christians. Tucker and Hendrickson illustrate that between the 1730 and 1780, there was concerted effort to Christianize the American community by spreading churches to regions where did exist before4. This massive expansion in evangelism during this period was instrumental in dissolving most of the cultural difference within the American community. The spread in the religion transcended all ideals of class, race, regions, country of origin or gender. The concept of a single religion additionally allowed the use of a single language making the use of English in the United States. English would later be used in teaching and as the national language thus the American culture.
An examination of the agricultural practices among most Americans indicates several similarities in America’s culture. Several communities that settled in the United States preferred subsistence farming looking to feed their families. Planting mainly corn and vegetables, most of the settlers employed the cut and burn methods of clearing land. Later, the concept of land ownership would become an ideal points of strive for the American community. According to Ragosta these ideals of individualism and land ownership would the American community with a sense of identity that would later to democracy5.
The concept of culture in early America was quite diverse due to the inherent fact that several communities emanated from different regions of the world. Early Americans had the challenge of merging their culture due to settling in different location. In addition, vast and deep forests separated these communities making the process of converging culture rather a challenge. However, religion and other practices such as agriculture would later provide a point of convergence.
Butler, John. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianization of the American People . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990.
facinghistory.org. Religion in Colonial America: Trends, Regulations, and Beliefs 1600-1799. 2010. http://nobigotry.facinghistory.org/content/religion-colonial-america-trends-regulations-and-beliefs (accessed August 28, 2012).
Ragosta, John A. Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Tucker, Robert W, and David C. Hendrickson. Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson . New York : Wiley and Sons , 1990.