And so we’ve come to the end of the road, a consideration today of the final chapter of Kathy Brown’s Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs (the full set of posts is available here). We’ve enjoyed working through the book over the past several weeks, and look forward to a healthy conversation about the final chapter.
Welcome to the Junto Summer Book Club, where over the next six Fridays we will be reading and discussing Kathleen Brown’s 1996 book, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs. Each week, a Junto representative will write a brief post on that week’s chapters to offer a few opening remarks and raise some questions to get the discussion started. We will then open up the comments section for you to address any topic related to the book—its argument, Brown’s use of sources, the historiography, using it in the classroom or in a public setting, to name just a few. We look forward to a lively conversation and to seeing how it develops over the next several weeks.
This week, we begin our conversation with the Introduction and Chapter 1, “Gender and English Identity on the Eve of Colonial Settlement.”
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.
Carl Robert Keyes is a newly tenured Associate Professor of History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is currently working on a book about advertising practices and consumer culture in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. An earlier version was delivered at the induction ceremony for the Phi Alpha Theta chapter at Framingham State University in April, 2014.
Earlier this month I finished teaching my first public history course. I’ve long been concerned about how professional historians, especially academic historians, (often don’t) communicate with the public and, in turn, the general public’s misunderstanding of the historian’s craft. Teaching a public history course made these apprehensions central to my work in the classroom. My students and I grappled with a different kind of historiography, a less formal historiography consisting of public opinion, incomplete recollections of elementary and secondary history education, and a “master narrative” that usually dominates stories of the American past told by many public figures, a narrative steeped in patriotism, heritage, and commemoration. More than ever, I found myself challenging my students (in all my classes, not just the public history course) to take a three-part approach in their studies: learn about the past, learn about how professional historians have interpreted the past, and learn about how the general public understands the past. This became yet another way to demonstrate that course content has relevance outside the classroom and beyond the semester.
Over the past few weeks, a discussion about trigger warnings has percolated across the blogosphere. Educators, op-ed columnists, and pundits have debated the use of these warnings about potentially upsetting content on syllabi or in the classroom (and leave it to the Chronicle to publish a disdainful mockery of the concept). As I’ve developed my courses, both at the survey and upper levels, I have confronted some of these same questions about the past: Is there anything in history from which we should shield our students? Or, to put it more broadly, how should we approach material that some of our students may find offensive, hurtful, or painful?
Craig Gallagher is a PhD candidate in History at Boston College. His dissertation analyzes Scots and their religious and economic networks in the late seventeenth century British Atlantic World.
Atlantic history has always had at its heart a simple enough goal: to connect the histories of Europe, Africa, and the Americas so that historians can better understand each in relation to the others. Scholars have disagreed about how best to realize this goal, and about whether it is a goal worth realizing at all, but few have denied that Atlantic history as a pursuit has enriched our understanding of the early modern world. Although this has been particularly true for historians of the British and Spanish empires in the Americas, it is a more recent development among scholars of the French empire. By convening the “Early Modern France and the Americas: Connected Histories” Symposium (Program; #FrenchAtlantic on Twitter) at Boston College on May 2-3 – an event co-sponsored by the Institut des Amériques – the organizers, Owen Stanwood (Boston College) and Bertrand van Ruymbeke (Université de Paris VIII), sought to showcase those historians of France and French North America whose work, either in print or in progress, has extended an Atlantic perspective to the history of France and its early modern empire in the Americas.
The ongoing discussion about whether the humanities in general, and history in particular, are relevant to today’s students can often get deeply abstract (enough so to be off-putting even to many of us invested in the question). But the debate and discussion also has a practical element. In my classes, and in particular in my survey courses (which most students are taking for general education credit), I encourage them literally to see the history that lies right outside their doorsteps.