The First American Contrasts: Region and Nation under the Articles of Confederation

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Examines Royall Tyler's stage play 'The Contrast' (1787) in terms of its falsely perceived importance as a reflection of 18th-century social life and customs. Instead, the play's most historically important feature is the consensus it generates: that there existed a coherent national culture and economy. The play's true origins lie in the fragmented world of Articles of Confederation-era regionalism. These origins have been erased by the myth of the inevitable federal union of the United States. It is necessary to recover the geographic diversity that prefaced 1780's political economy and social life in order to recognize that the play's presumed contrast between American and British vices and virtues may in fact reflect regional differences.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-259
Number of pages30
JournalExplorations in early American culture
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • theater
  • prologues
  • American culture
  • nationalism
  • theater criticism
  • political debate
  • regional identity
  • sovereign states
  • political identity
  • cities

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