The Week in Early American History

TWEAHHere’s the weekly review of early America in the news:

Chicago auctioneers prepared to sell the diploma of Richard T. Greener, Harvard’s first African-American graduate, and a central Illinois library identified Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting in an 1854 book on race. Taking her scholarship to sea, Hester Blum shared her logbook of a recent trip into the past: “My 18 hours on the Morgan were a bracing lesson in how nimble and determined sailors had to be in sustaining their social and intellectual lives alongside the physical demands of their professional labor. The confluence of their manual and imaginative work are newly alive to me, as well as the fluency of that labor itself.” Researchers found a photograph of Mary O’Melia, housekeeper of the Confederacy’s White House. In antebellum Southern news, meet Godfrey Barnsley, a British-born merchant prince and cotton broker who relocated in 1824 to Savannah, Ga., where he strove to create a “Southern Eden” at Woodlands manor.

Whither the history profession? Robert B. Townsend weighed in on the discipline’s cautious approach to new systems of scholarship and technology, commenting that history “seems to excel in the creation of spaces for small subgroups (as indicated by the over 400 peer-reviewed English-language journals in the field), but is quite powerful in resisting larger systemic changes.” A South Carolina elementary-school teacher explained why she uses Rush Limbaugh’s books to teach early American history. Elsewhere, discussion continued over the pros and cons of bearing the ABD (“all but dissertation”) label. At Slate, Rebecca Schuman offered some excellent words of advice to advisers, and to their ABD students: “Finally, here’s what ABDs can do to help themselves. Dare to stop reading and start writing, and revel in an early draft that is an unabashed hot mess. Realize that the greatest misconception of dissertation writers is that the project must be perfect. In fact, for a career academic, the dissertation should actually be the worst thing you ever write.” Using digital forums to enliven class participation, one professor told Chronicle how he promotes Facebook in the classroom, and designates a teaching assistant to act as “social-media director.” Also on the professional front, catch up on the controversy related to Rick Perlstein’s Reagan biography, here and here. And finally, on a lighter note, check out these romance tips, culled from The New Academy of Compliments, 1799.

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