Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut was a rather ordinary man and lived a rather ordinary life in the first half of the 18th century. But he did an extraordinary thing. For nearly forty-seven years he kept a diary, dutifully recording planting and reaping, births and deaths and other details important to his life. This is far removed from the colonial diaries of educated New Englanders. Joshua was the son of a wheelwright. With his formal education limited to a shipwright’s apprenticeship, he was a most unlikely diarist and his records offer a rare look into the daily life a New England tradesman. The appearance in the diary of Adam, his slave, and the account of Adam’s daily activities, makes this record even more valuable. Adam spent nearly thirty years working closely with Joshua and his family.
Allegra di Bonaventura did a remarkable job, turning the bare bones of Joshua’s diary into a very enjoyable book. Joshua’ wife, children and neighbors become real people, not just names. I was especially taken with accounts of the lives of slaves and the relationships between slave and master, for in later centuries New Englanders tended to ignore the fact that many households held slaves. This is a well-researched and beautifully written book. Highly recommend.
eGalley review Publication date 4.22.13