A competent, straightforward, and often fascinating survey of the details and textures of American life during a period of momentous change. Working from primary documents and archeological research, often quoting directly from diaries and letters, Larkin, Chief Historian at Old Sturbridge Village, describes a world that changed from something quite alien to our sensibilities (""far closer to. . .villages of many third-world countries"") into a society we would immediately recognize as the precursor to our own. The material is divided into overlapping sections on demographics and work: the cycles of life, including marriage, birth, disease, and death; houses, furnishings, and the physical environment; behavior, including sexual custom, food, and clothing; music and dance; and patterns of social interaction, with a focus on the poles of church and tavern. Though most space is given to the vast majority of Americans whose livelihood came directly from farming (almost 90% in 1800), Larkin is conscientious about presenting the full range of society, from the wealthiest New Yorkers and Bostonians to those with the meanest existence--slaves of the plantation South and the landless, urban poor. More a guide than an interpreter, Larkin, through the steady accretion of detail and the comments of well-chosen contemporary voices, succeeds in building a remarkable and tangible portrait of an era.