John Demos' A Little Commonwealth (p. 1180) debunked some of the social myths about Plymouth colony family life, and now Kenneth Lockridge takes a crack at the political myths surrounding that pristine popular institution the New England Town. By exploring the historical evolution of a representative town, Dedham, Massachusetts, from its inception in 1636 as a village of several hundred through its first century of existence, Lockridge demonstrates that libertarian society in America actually developed slowly and indirectly; it was not until the second fifty years of town life that the peasant-Puritan corporate impulse which generated at best a democracy of homogeneity began gradually to give way to a pluralist democracy embracing social diversity and political dissent. Lockridge dubs the Dedham of the first fifty years ""A Utopian Commune"" because the founders drew upon rural village traditions and religious convictions to create a unified social organism. But communal perfection was based on simplicity, patriarchalism, and order; stability was purchased by a ""willingness to exclude whatever men and to ignore whatever events"" threatened the status quo. This skeptical, conservative Christian corporatism contained the seeds of a more optimistic American utopianism of individual freedom, opportunity, and equality, but it weathered the initial impact of the wide-open American environment far longer than tradition would have it. An interesting study written in straightforward investigative style.