The Watchful Clothier

The Life of an Eighteenth-Century Protestant Capitalist

Matthew Kadane

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January 29, 2013
312 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
15 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300169614
Cloth

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A clothier and a deeply religious man, Joseph Ryder faithfully kept a diary from 1733 until his death, two and a half million words later, in 1768. Recently rediscovered and brilliantly interpreted by historian Matthew Kadane, Ryder’s diary provides an illuminating, real-life perspective on the relationship between capitalism and Protestantism at a time when Britain was rapidly changing from a traditional to a modern society. It also provides fascinating insights on the early modern family, the birth of industrialization, the history of Puritanism, the origins of Unitarianism, melancholy, and the making of the British middle class.

Matthew Kadane is an associate professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

The Watchful Clothier is one of the most extraordinary works of history I can remember reading. Kadane has unearthed the missing link of Max Weber’s famed ‘Protestant ethic’: the vast spiritual diary of an eighteenth-century tradesman halfway through the transformation from Richard Baxter to Benjamin Franklin.”—Ethan Shagan, University of California Berkeley

"The personal experience of England's transition to capitalism comes alive in this beautifully-crafted study of a devout Protestant who is also a diligent businessman."—Joyce Appleby, author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism

"Kadane's beautifully researched and written book explores great themes in small compass,'the seismic cultural shifts in early modern Britain' in the diary of a Puritan, the 'revaluation of the middle class' in the struggle of a businessman to live a godly life."—Deirdre N. McCloskey, author of Bourgeois Dignity

 “This brilliant and beautifully written study of the diary of an eighteenth-century clothier deserves to be ranked with the classics of biographical history. Kadane tackles most of the big questions of the early modern period, chief among them Weber’s study of the relationship between Calvinism and capitalism, and provides an object lesson on the close reading of texts, mining apparently incidental remarks to reveal a host of questions and complexities in his subject’s personality and religious concerns.”—Phyllis Mack, Rutgers University

 "Kadane's analysis of Joseph Ryder's spiritual journal provides an absorbing case study of the complex and stressful relationship between the English puritan tradition, the demands of a burgeoning industrial capitalism and the challenge of rationalist religion. It offers a fresh perspective on the experience of the eighteenth century.”—Keith Wrightson, Yale University

“Historians have long known of this extraordinary source, but Kadane’s thoughtful and readable book is the first to give it detailed attention.”—Arthur Burns, Church Times

“Superb . . . all in all, this is a remarkable book.”—American Historical Review

“Fascinating reading . . . Kadane has produced a consistently excellent piece of scholarship that challenges and adds many layers to Weber’s classic statement on the spirit of capitalism . . . well-written and engaging.”—The Journal of British Studies
 

“Kadane has labored long and hard in evaluating Ryder's journal, and the result is a model of humane learning. He writes with enviable lucidity, [and] entertains enormous historical questions with eloquent humility; the answers he offers are, nonetheless, deeply considered, suggestive, and interpretatively fruitful. His analysis of text and context makes clear that the journal has much to teach modern readers.”—Brian Young, University of Oxford

"This book is therefore not merely a careful and scholarly exposition of one man's life through the close reading of an exceptional body of documentation. . . . It also provides an unusual pathway into provincial dissent in the eighteenth century. . . . Overall, this is an intelligent, scholarly and informative book whose implications go far beyond the opening up of the spiritual life of a Leeds clothier."—James Sharpe, British Journal History
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