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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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.

Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar Award. Professor Bell is author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home," which was shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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