Join us at the library for a book talk with Steve Bullock, Professor of History at WPI. Professor Bullock will discuss his new book Tea Sets and Tyranny: The Politics of Politeness in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
Even as eighteenth-century thinkers from John Locke to Thomas Jefferson struggled to find effective means to restrain power, contemporary discussions of society gave increasing attention to ideals of refinement, moderation, and polished self-presentation. These two sets of ideas have long seemed separate, one dignified as political theory, the other primarily concerned with manners and material culture. Tea Sets and Tyranny challenges that division. In its original context, Professor Bullock suggests, politeness also raised important issues of power, leadership, and human relationships. This politics of politeness helped make opposition to overbearing power central to early American thought and practice.
"In a series of fascinating cameos, Steven Bullock illuminates the rise and fall of the eighteenth-century culture of politeness, benevolence, and sympathy that reshaped a politics of violent hierarchy into one of restrained moderation."—John Brooke, Ohio State University
"More than a code of elite social norms, 'politeness' expressed a deeply embedded set of cultural assumptions about colonial hierarchies of race, gender, and political authority. Tea Sets and Tyranny provides a whole new context for understanding the underlying forces that contributed to the coming of the American Revolution."—Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University