Sep 26, 2012 - Uncategorized    4 Comments

Secondary Sources

No recent secondary source that I can find addresses what people at Brook Farm actually thought. The title of  The Harbinger and New England Transcendentalism by Sterling Delano led me to think it would be an excellent source, but the reviews for it were horrible and stated that the book made no argument. I will scan it later to make sure it is still useful to my project, but I set it aside for the time being and looked through some of my other sources.

The most useful article I have found is “This Unnatural Union of Phalansteries and Transcendentalists” by Charles Crowe. It is a concise account of George Ripley’s ideology and how it played into Brook Farm. This article makes Brook Farm a manageable and understandable topic through simple explanation. It is not the broad description of life at Brook Farm that is all too common, but instead examines the intricacies of Ripley’s philosophy that are critical to grasping the reasoning behind the other aspects of the community.

My other most useful source is The Idyll of Brook Farm by Zoltán Haraszti. Although Haraszti’s interpretation of the letters in the collection provides context for the letters, it is the large excerpts of the letters themselves that are useful to my research. I am focusing on the writings of people that lived at Brook Farm, and this book is indispensable because it is the only way I have been able to locate any portion of the letters.


  • I like the information that Crowe’s work seems to give. To understand the ideas that established these type of utopias is extremely important. Those other works which give a broad description of the utopia are great for getting acquainted with the information but make terrible sources. It seems like you have already filtered through the works which will benefit your paper most keep up the great work.

  • You said your focus is on the writings of those who lived at Brook Farm, but would views and opinions of those not living within the society be helpful? Maybe opinions on Brooke Farm from how it looked from the outside/rest of America? If you’re having trouble finding secondary sources that provide primary accounts, maybe you could find something like that.

  • Actually, I have plenty of primary sources. Brook Farm attracted some of the most prominent (umm… what to call them…) thinkers in New England at the time. The records, journals, and letters are extensive. The only problem that I’ve run into with my primary sources is that people talking to their friends and relatives glaze over the bad parts.

  • I’m having similar difficulties in terms of secondary sources, finding books that look like they’re going to be great, but then, they end up not being what I wanted.
    Are you having difficulty finding good primary sources for this topic? For some reason, I’m imagining that this utopian experiment wouldn’t really approve of journals and diaries. However, if you could find a diary or a journal or something I think that that would be super cool.