Robert A. Gross’ The Transcendentalists and Their World is a massively detailed social history of the town of Concord, Massachusetts, from the time of the Revolutionary War to roughly the 1850s. To a lesser extent, it is an intellectual history of the rise of Transcendentalism, specifically as formulated in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. As Gross states in his preface, the book is a continuation of his earlier work, the immensely popular The Minutemen and Their World (1976). That book used the social history of Concord in the early eighteenth century to answer the question of why this small New England town became the flashpoint for the American Revolution. According to Gross, Revolutionary Concord represented the triumph of “civic republicanism merged with Puritan traditions to emphasize the interdependence of individuals and families within a common way of life” (xv). By the 1830s, however, this ideology...

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