Great Nonfiction: A Useful Friend, by Patricia M. Schaefer

Gold Mine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A century ago, the New London CT Historical Society took on the herculean task of transcribing and published the Diary of Joshua Hempstead, a personal journal written between 1711 and 1758. In 1999, a second edition was issued, with revisions in format and in the genealogical index. There is no subject index in the book, but a searchable digital database of the 700+ page volume is now available. Nevertheless, finding information on specific topics is a daunting task when faced with using the diary itself. Now, Patrica M. Schaefer has collected information from its pages on a variety of topics, providing readers with an overview of the life and times of the amazing Joshua Hempstead.

Included in A Useful Friend are articles about Hempstead’s commentaries on people, religion, politics, travel, health, the judicial system, daily life, trade, and local government. There is a glossary of obscure terms, a subject index to the diary itself, a small atlas of maps, and explanations of the locations of some of the places that were important in Hempstead’s life.

A Useful Friend is useful indeed, not only for use by scholars and researchers, but also as a valuable picture of early colonial life for general interest readers.

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