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.
In 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 →
One 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.
As 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 →
“Without Contraries there is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion,
Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing
from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.”
-William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
I doubt that the mercurial poet William Blake had American historiography on his mind when he penned these famous lines from his most famous poem, but I am going to use them for such a purpose anyhow. And who knows—Blake was indeed known as a visionary. Continue reading →
A year ago today, I introduced the world to The Junto.
For those who care, chocolate is the official Junto birthday cake flavor. Duh.
Since then, my admittedly lofty goals of success have been dramatically achieved by our cast of bloggers. I aimed to gather some of the brightest young minds in the field, and I have been pleased with the consistent quality and quantity of posts throughout the year. We have had posts nearly every weekday, along with our popular “This Week in Early American History” roundup every Sunday, which totaled 292 posts for the year. It would be impossible and unfair to highlight the “best” posts because there have been so many quality posts that, quite frankly, probably belong in a more professional setting than a blog. Some of our most popular include Michael Hattem’s overview of Assassin’s Creed III (thanks, Reddit!), the multi-author roundtable on Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams, Rachel Herrmann’s response to new(!) cannibalism developments, and Matt Karp’s reviews of Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave. And our academia-related posts have also been highly popular, as the response to posts on digital workflow and creating a CV attest. And who can forget our epic March Madness Tournament? Indeed, the quality of the content is reflected in the fact that The Junto has been featured in the American Historical Association’s “What We’re Reading” seven times. Continue reading →
Last week, I attended the annual conference for the Society of United States Intellectual History, this year held in Irvine, CA. It was a fun time, and I learned enough and met enough people to consider the conference a success (and worth the 12 hour flight from London!). Yet one thing struck me the entire weekend, and was reinforced by Mark Peterson who gave words to my thoughts during his session response: why is there a paucity of work on early America within the recent surge of interest in US intellectual history? Or, to ask a different, but still related, question, why do so few historians of early America do work on intellectual history, or self-identify as intellectual historians? Continue reading →