1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

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 Sydney V. James Papers

 Historian, of Iowa

 Literary manuscript and papers, ca 1964-1992.

 Size: 6 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 511

 Processed by: Robin Flynn, January 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Sydney Vincent James, Jr. was born in 1929. He was the chairman of the history department at the University of Iowa for many years, and was best known for his definitive book Colonial Rhode Island: A History, published in 1974.

            James died in 1993 with the manuscript for his second book on Rhode Island, The Colonial Metamorphosis in Rhode Island: A Study of Institutions in Change, unpublished. James had begun research for the book in the mid-1960s, completed his first manuscript for it circa 1980, and was writing revisions as late as 1988. He received grants supporting his research from numerous societies and foundations, and surveyed all of Rhode Island's extant state, county and After his death, one of his final drafts was edited by Sheila Skemp, a professor at the University of Mississippi, and Bruce C. Daniels, and published by the New England University Press in 2000.

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Scope and content:

            The collection contains James's original manuscript (ca. 1980) for The Colonial Metamorphosis in Rhode Island; ten 3" x 5" file drawers and several folders of related notes and index cards; and other, smaller manuscripts probably written for articles. The index cards were compiled by James over the course of several research trips to Rhode Island, mostly from 1964 to 1965, and in summer trips through the 1970s. Note cards referring to state records may prove to be quite valuable in terms of research potential. Some of the records to which they refer may no longer be extant, as archival storage for state records was not professionalized until the 1980s, and storage conditions prior to that time were less than ideal.

            In his earliest draft, James quoted heavily from his primary sources to support his arguments and illustrate the smaller details of everyday colonial village life, as well as the larger events that shaped Rhode Island’s institutional development. Such detail was for the most part removed from the manuscript as James progressed through subsequent revisions, attempting to present his thesis more clearly and reduce the manuscript's length.

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            These papers were donated to the society by James's widow, Mrs. Jean James, in 1997.

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Volumes: Manuscript, The Colonial Metamorphosis in Rhode Island: A Study of Institutions in Change, ca. 1980. 8 volumes.

Ten (10) 3" x 5" file drawers of note cards (research from primary sources for manuscript).

Box 1 of 1.

The Colonial Metamorphosis in Rhode Island:

Folder 1. Acknowledgment and notes, undated

Folder 2. Footnotes, ca 1983-1984.

Folder 3. Correspondence, 1977-1992.

Folder 4. Critiques and readers' reports, 1983 and undated

Folder 5. Facsimiles and transcriptions of various RI documents (17th and 18th centuries).

Folders 6 - 11. Manuscripts:

            "The First Private Corporations in America", 1979, 1980

            "Friends in Colonial Rhode Island Politics", undated

"Rhode Island and Boundary Disputes" (probably in support of The Colonial Metamorphosis in Rhode Island), including maps, undated

"The Riddles of Long Wharf and Grand Committee: Remarks on Questionable Progress", 1982

            "Who Was Irish Martin?", 1987

            Paper, religious liberty in the American colonies (and states?), undated

Folder 12. Newport town meeting records (transcriptions), ca. 1682-1740.

Folder 13. Westerly town records (transcriptions), 1669-1961.

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The Colonial Metamorphosis in Rhode Island: A Study of Institutions in Change

Newport, R.I. - History

Rhode Island - History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775

Westerly, R.I. - History

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