|Title||:||An American Aristocracy: The Livingston Family: The Livingstons|
|Number of Pages||:||297 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
An American Aristocracy: The Livingston Family: The Livingstons Reviews
A fascinating and well written documentary, which can be best described as a slice of American history seen through the eyes of one particular family. This book starts with the first Livingstons to arrive in New York state at the end of the seventeenth century, where they were granted vast tracts of land which they held under a quasi-feudal system of land tenure which allowed them, among other things, to set up their own civil and criminal courts. The family did well though not exceptionally as Lords-of-the-Manor throughout the eighteenth century, made some moderate political contributions during the Revolution, but went into decline after that.I had no idea that early colonial America still practiced a system of land tenure as archaic as the lordship-of-the-manor (called, I believe, patroonship under the Dutch)and found this account of it very informative. Tenant farmers could never hope to own their own farms, because the Lord of the Manor was granted the land in perpetuity, so the Livingstons and families like them had trouble getting tenants to farm their land (they all preferred to go to other states, which did not practice this system)or in getting the tenants they had to pay the rent. So even in the early days, lords of the manor seemed to have had more airs than money. The story of the Livingstons during the Revolutionary era is also quite interesting, providing a glimpse into just how American families were split along loyalist and revolutionary lines. After the Revolution, and especially after the rent riots of the 1830s, the family seems to have entered a period of steep decline: Brandt describes it evocatively as `downward mobility' which makes it sound faintly Darwinian. And it's an accurate description: the Livingstons, unable to adapt to the new environment which no longer recognized their claims to aristocracy, slowly dwindled into poverty and obcurity. Overall, one of the best family histories I've read.
Really, my rating is 3.5 because of the subject matter, which is interesting to me as an east bank resident of the Hudson Valley. The writing was not good and made this confusing family with its geneological interconnections even more confusing. Indeed, a dear friend is a Livingston decendant and I have a professional connection with one of the estates that was discussed at length. As such, I was disappointed with the confusing way the family was described and discussed from just before the Civil War and onward. I know the book is 30 years old, and the author was trying to protect the privacy of the current members of the family, yet the discussion of the Livingstons after WWII is difficult to follow. The author has a thesis and the metaphors are stretched way too thin.That said, the family tree on the endpaper should have been more detailed. It would have been more helpful to the reader. Also a map with the estates marked should have been included.I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Hudson Valley and New York State. Just be prepared to have a pencil handy so you can keep track of the branches of family and homes.