Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island

Newport and Providence in the Eighteenth Century

By Lynne Withey

Paperback : 9780873957526, 183 pages, June 1984
Hardcover : 9780873957519, 183 pages, June 1984

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Table of contents

Illustrations and Tables

1. Urbanization in Colonial New England
2. The Growth of a Commercial Economy, 1680-1760; The Pre-eminence of Newport
3. Rhode Island's "Golden Age," 1760-76: The Rise of Providence
4. The Social Consequences of Economic Growth
5. The Revolution in Rhode Island: Economic Collapse and Recovery
6. Economy and Society in the Post-War Years
7. Conclusion

Appendix A. Population
Appendix B. Trade
Appendix C. Social Structure
Appendix D. Poor Relief


By the early decades of the eighteenth century, Rhode Island had developed a commercial economy with not one, but two centers. Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island is the tale of these two cities: Newport, fifth largest city in the colonies, and the much smaller Providence. This absorbing history of two interdependent cities in a restricted region shows how they developed, competed with each other, and eventually traded places as major and secondary economic centers within the region.

The book has drawn upon the substantial body of local and regional history of colonial America. Unlike other studies, which concentrate on the social structure and family life of rural communities, Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island explores the relationship between economic development and social structure in an urban setting. The book concludes with a discussion of the impact of the Revolution on the two cities, and the ways in which the war, combined with general economic trends, transformed Providence into Rhode Island's major city.


"This is more than a study of colonial cities; it is a study in regionalism and in urbanization. " — Virginia Yans-McLaughlin, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University