With summer upon us, many of us are turning our attention to reading lists, whether for upcoming graduate exams, syllabus preparation, research, or pleasure. For many, it’s an opportunity to catch up on new work that sat neglected during the push through the final weeks of the semester and exams, but it’s also an opportunity to return to more classic books that have shaped the field and deserve reconsideration. Plus, we at the Junto love nothing more than to discuss and argue about history. Therefore, we would like to introduce a new feature: the Junto Summer Book Club.
For this first iteration of the JSBC, we cast around for a book that would meet several purposes: one that would appear on reading lists for most graduate students in early American history, regardless of subfield; one that more senior scholars might enjoy returning to; and one that has not received a large popular audience but whose ideas deserving a broader airing. We think we’ve found a great fit for our selection, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia by Kathleen M. Brown.
First published in 1996, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs uses gender analysis to rethink the origins of slavery and race in colonial Virginia. This wide-ranging text considers the home lives of English colonists as well as colonists’ interactions with Africans and Native Americans. Brown argues that Virginians extended and transformed English gender relations, ultimately establishing systems of enslaved labor and elevating white male planters’ political and social authority. In so doing, she challenges the interpretations of scholars such as Edmund Morgan in American Slavery, American Freedom (which won Junto March Madness in 2013 and was discussed in our August 2013 roundtable on Morgan’s work).
The book club will involve weekly posts on a selection of chapters, working our way through the book together during June and July. Each Friday, a member of the Junto will write a brief post with thoughts and comments on the appointed chapters and a few questions to get discussion started. From there, we will open the comments section to you for your comments, questions, and discussion about the book. In order to allow anyone interested the time to get a copy of the book, we’ll be hosting our first discussion on Friday, June 13. Thereafter, we’ll post on most Fridays according to this schedule:
- June 13: Introduction and Ch. 1
- June 20: Chapters 2 and 3
- June 27: Chapters 4 and 5
- July 11: Chapters 6 and 7
- July 18: Chapters 8 and 9
- July 25: Chapter 10 and Afterword
- August: Interview with Kathleen Brown (date to be determined)
Beyond that, how the JSBC runs will largely be determined by our readers. Please come back each week to share your ideas on the book’s arguments, other work that relates, and the questions you have. We look forward to exploring Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs with all of you this summer. Happy reading!