(p. B11) Joyce Appleby, a distinguished historian and author who argued that ideas about capitalism and liberty were fundamental in shaping the identity of early Americans, died on Dec. 23  at her home in Taos, N.M.
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Dr. Appleby, a former journalist who began her Ph.D. training at 32 while caring for three children, rose to the top ranks of the discipline, serving as president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
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In books like “Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s” (1984) and “Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination” (1992). Dr. Appleby argued that the revolutionaries were more individualistic and optimistic than they had been given credit for.
John Locke and Adam Smith had as much influence on founders like Jefferson as the radical Whigs — if not more, she said. In her view, the revolutionaries believed that the public good would arise out of the harmonious pursuit of private interests in a market economy.
“For me, liberalism had entered American consciousness as a potent brew blended from 17th-century entrepreneurial attitudes and the Enlightenment’s endorsement of liberty and reason,” Dr. Appleby said in the 2012 lecture. “Because nature had endowed human beings with the capacity to think for themselves and act on their own behalf, representative government seemed the perfect fit for them.
“Rather than classical republicanism’s fixation on social traumas, liberalism was optimistic, moving forward with the rational, self-improving individual who was endowed with natural rights to be exercised in a widened ambit of freedom.”
Or, as she put it in a 2007 essay on the intellectual underpinnings of American democracy, “Fear moved aside to make room for hope.”
For the full obituary, see:
SEWELL CHAN. “Joyce Appleby, Scholar of Capitalism and American Identity.” The New York Times (Fri., January 6, 2017): B11.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 2 [sic], 2017, and has the title “Joyce Appleby, Historian of Capitalism and American Identity, Is Dead at 87.”)
The Appleby books mentioned above, are:
Appleby, Joyce. Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s, Anson G. Phelps Lectureship on Early American History. New York: NYU Press, 1984.
Appleby, Joyce. Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.