Guest Post: Megan Brett on the Papers of the War Department, 1784-1800

Today’s guest poster is Megan R. Brett. Brett is a doctoral student in History at George Mason University where her dissertation will focus on the challenges faced by early American diplomatic families stationed overseas. She is also a Digital History Associate at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.11.52 PMThe Papers of the War Department, 1784-1800, is a rich resource, not only for its content but also as a community transcription project. Only a small percentage of the transcribers identify as educators or academics; what draws people to volunteer their time deciphering 18th century handwriting? Continue reading

George Robert Twelves Hewes and the Politics of Historical Pedagogy

How does an ordinary person win a place in history?

Such is the line that Alfred Young opened his classic The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). In a way, the phrase captures much of his overall scholarship. Other contributions to this roundtable have/will cover(ed) how he did this in his influential books, essays, and edited collection. In my post, I want to focus on how he translated his approach into a work that is probably read more than any of his other books. Indeed, Shoemaker and the Tea Party is a popular book in the classroom, both undergrad and graduate, since it tells a fascinating tale with an important message.  Continue reading

WMQ-EMSI Workshop CFP: Early American Legal Histories

The Omohundro Institute and the University of Southern California-Huntington Library Early Modern Studies Institute are pleased to announce the tenth in a series of William and Mary Quarterly-EMSI workshops designed to identify and encourage new trends in understanding the history and culture of early North America and its wider world.

Participants will attend a two-day meeting at the Huntington Library (May 29–30, 2015) to discuss a precirculated chapter-length portion of their current work in progress along with the work of other participants. Subsequently, the convener may write an essay elaborating on the issues raised at the workshop for publication in the William and Mary Quarterly. The convener of this year’s workshop is Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Guest Post: “A Display of Folly and Show”: Joseph Smith’s Impressions of Congress

Today’s guest poster, Spencer McBride, received his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2014 and is now a historian and documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers.  His research examines the politicization of clergymen during the American Revolution and in the early American republic.

JS uniformIn my work at The Joseph Smith Papers, I have recently been examining dozens of documents surrounding the trip Joseph Smith made to Washington D.C. in 1839. As I have prepared these documents for publication in one of the project’s future volumes, they have drawn my mind to the way men and women living in rural America during the nineteenth century perceived the federal government and what they thought occurred in its different branches. Though Smith’s experience in this regard is but one example, I think that it is a telling one. Continue reading

The Problem with Big Books; Or, Alan Taylor’s Biggest Sin

[Headlines are supposed to draw readers, right?]

TaylorOne of the first things I did after finishing my dissertation a couple of months back (other than sleeping for an entire week, of course), was reading Alan Taylor’s latest tome, An Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1776-1832 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), which recently won the Pulitzer Prize. (One could argue that Taylor’s biggest sin, other than the one I’m about to discuss, is hogging all the major book awards.) As one would expect given Taylor’s track record, I was floored by the book’s exhaustive research and lyrical prose. I made a mental note that this would be a great book to assign to students. Now that I’m prepping for this fall, when I’ll be teaching a Jeffersonian America course, I gave the idea more serious consideration. However, I soon realized the biggest problem, which more seasoned teachers probably already know.

The book is just too big.

Continue reading

The Revolution is Reborn at Common-place

home_revolutionLast summer, Philadelphia witnessed a gathering of many delegates who discussed British tyranny and American liberty. Though none of the resulting documents may be as influential as Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the proceedings of “The American Revolution Reborn: New Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century” should at least instigate some debate. The conference itself was a product of generosity from Frank Fox, the American Philosophical Society, the David Library of the American Revolution, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Samuel Adams® (the beer, who aptly supplied refreshments for the reception), and the Museum of the American Revolution (who provided an expansive—and sweltering!—location for the closing activities). A good number of Juntoists were in attendance—there is even photographic evidence!—and the excellent speakers sparked good discussion. Patrick Spero and Michael Zuckerman should be commended for organizing the event. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History: Super Bowl Edition

tweahAs Americans gather round the tv, settle into their couches, and devour unhealthy amounts of wings while encouraging concussion culture watching football, the world of early American history news moves on. Let’s hit the links!

Speaking of contact sports, Obama delivered his State of the Union Address, which prompted lots of discussion on executive orders. Jon Meacham oddly argued that previous presidents like Lincoln and FDR didn’t execute similar actions, but then later offerd an apology for the mistake—which, ironically, actually is something FDR never did. Continue reading