A Series of Fortunate Events: Navigating the Eighteenth-Century World with George Galphin

Today’s guest post comes from Bryan Rindfleisch, Assistant Professor of History at Marquette University. Bryan received his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma, in 2014, where he specialized in early American, Native American, and Atlantic world history. His book manuscript focuses on the intersections of colonial, Native, imperial, and Atlantic histories, peoples, and places in eighteenth-century North America.

It’s inevitable. At some point, a friendly conversation about my research – with family and friends, colleagues, students, or even a random stranger at the local coffee shop – will take an unfortunate turn. All it takes is that one question: “who is George Galphin?” Continue reading

Interview: Saul Cornell and the Originalism Debate

cornell.imgSaul Cornell is a legal and constitutional historian at Fordham University, and the author of The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America (1999) and A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America (2006). As an active participant in public debate over gun regulation, as well as the scholarly debate over constitutional interpretation, Cornell is a historian who does not fear to tread in dangerous political territory. Today for The Junto, he explains originalism’s complex impact, and its strange relationship to the past. Continue reading

Putting the “Pop” into Popular History: Pop Culture Videos in the Classroom

Kanye West may not be ready to enter our historical surveys, but there are other pop culture references that deserve more attention.

President Kanye West may never become a reality, but I’d like to think he’d choose a Secretary of Education who’d endorsed creative pedagogy.

Kanye West’s presidential ambitions remind us that American history is full of fun surprises—even if most of them are short-lived and forgettable. Although it’s probably too much of a stretch to make the entertainment of #Kanye2020 relevant to American history—though Donald Trump’s candidacy perhaps proves that nothing is outside the realm of possibility—I do love to find pop culture references and videos and bring relevance to what students might see as staid topics.

I’m declaring this post a judgment-free zone so that I can be frank: I have a tough time keeping the attention of the freshmen students in my undergraduate survey class. But I have found that one thing that works well is video clips, and so I find myself drawing from youtube nearly as much as I do from powerpoint. Luckily, I’m a TV-show junkie, and so I have have a lot of background at my disposal. (Finally a way to justify my Netflix binges!) Indeed, my use of videos in class is one of the constant positives in my students’ evaluations, so I know it’s not just me who enjoys this approach. Continue reading

Hamilton, Art, History, and Truth

mobile-hamiltonBy now you’ve probably heard or read something about Hamilton: An American Musical, the hip-hop biography of Alexander Hamilton now running on Broadway. (If not, you can start with our reviews by Chris Minty and Nora Slonimsky and Ben Carp.) I went to see it last week with a group of historians (how’s that for a nerdy event?) and had an amazing time. First of all, the show is fantastic on all of the standard measures of the experience—the acting, the music, the singing and choreography, the set—they’re all great. You should see it if you can, because it’s really that good. But what makes Hamilton a bit different is how interesting it is as a vessel for conveying history to the general public, the argument it makes about Hamilton’s life, and the use of artistic license to make such an incisive historical argument.

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Q&A: Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the Revolution

9781400068951Yesterday, Chris Minty reviewed Kathleen DuVal’s latest book, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the Revolution. Today, we continue with an interview with DuVal, who is a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Continue reading

Re-Writing the American Revolution: Kathleen DuVal’s Independence Lost

9781400068951When most people think about the American Revolution and its cast of characters, names like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington spring to mind. On the British side, people might think of John André, Benedict Arnold, John Burgoyne, and, sometimes, Lord Dunmore. Though some of these people appear in Kathleen DuVal’s latest book, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 2015), most of DuVal’s narrative centers around people who seldom feature in books or articles on the American Revolution. It is not the American Revolution that most people know. Indeed, “The American Revolution on the Gulf Coast,” DuVal writes, “is a story without minutemen, without founding fathers, without rebels. It reveals a different war with unexpected participants, forgotten outcomes, and surprising winners and losers.” Continue reading

Guest Post: Steven Elliott on Public History at the Morristown National Park

Today’s guest post comes from Steven Elliott, a PhD candidate in American Military History at Temple University. Elliott (@EastJerseySteve) is writing a dissertation about the American War of Independence, tentatively titled “The Highlands War: Soldiers, Civilians, and Landscapes in Revolutionary New Jersey.” He has worked for seven years as a historical interpreter at Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, New Jersey, which is the subject of this guest post.

“The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation,” Freeman Tilden, NPS

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A depiction of the 1780 winter encampment at Morristown, courtesy of Morristown National Historical Park Collection.

Despite Tilden’s call to action, provocative interpretation at many National Parks remains a challenge, especially for Revolution-era sites. As many Americans learn (or re-learn) their history at public history venues, rather than through books or schooling, the Park Service can play an important role in bringing challenging interpretations to popular audiences. Yet, this can be difficult for Revolutionary-era sites, many of which were created to focus on “heroic narratives” emphasizing military campaigns and political leaders. In this post, I reflect on my personal experiences in attempting to challenge visitors’ assumptions about the Revolution, as a seasonal park guide at Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, NJ.   Continue reading