Van Beck Hall is associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.
In this book, Van Hall Beck demonstrates that prior to the development of American political parties in the 1790s, political conflicts reflected differences in the values of the entire society. They were rooted in human circumstances-social, economic, cultural-of all sectors of society, and they displayed an ordered, patterned and persistent quality. To illustrate his assessment, Hall sifts through extensive archival data on 343 towns and plantations in Massachusetts. By comparing rural to urban settings, agricultural to market economies, and differing levels of political and social networking, he effectively ties voting patterns to human circumstances at the town level, and then relates these to the overall social and political order of the Commonwealth.