American History Mondays with Dr. Richard Bell: The Best Poor Man’s Country

American History Mondays with Dr. Richard Bell: The Best Poor Man’s Country


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Who made America? This series of talks led by University of Maryland historian Dr. Richard Bell is designed to allow you to dip in and out depending on your interests. It examines how three peoples—Europeans, Natives, and Africans—encountered each other in North America and, through conflict and cooperation, created what became the United States. Together, these lectures provide a great primer on almost every aspect of early American history prior to 1877. But they’re designed as stand-alone offerings, so come on out for whichever topics spark your imagination.

To learn more about this series and view past and future events, click here.

This program contains some short interactive elements.

It’s become commonplace to say that colonial America was the best poor man’s country—that the opportunities for poor people to do well and perhaps to prosper were greater in eighteenth-century America than in Western Europe. But is that claim actually true? How do the material conditions of ordinary Americans measure up against the hardships experienced by poor white folks back in the Old World? To answer these questions, we’ll look first at different ways to measure poverty and inequality in the eighteenth century. Then we’ll examine the causes of poverty in Philadelphia, the largest city in colonial America. We’ll wrap up by looking at some of the schemes that Americans came up with to try to alleviate poverty.

Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home" which is shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture, as an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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