If there is a current orthodoxy among historians of the American Revolution, it is that the study of the Revolution has lost its focus. In their introduction to the Common-Place edition recapping the McNeil Center’s “The American Revolution Reborn” conference, Patrick Spero and Michael Zuckerman wrote of “a field that had grown stale” and that was “losing its verve, and worse, its center.” The call for papers for the forthcoming Massachusetts Historical Society conference effectively described the field as being stuck in a historiographical rut. There is a reason that study of the Revolution has lost its center. It has failed to concentrate its focus on politics. Continue reading
Simon Newman is Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History at the University of Glasgow. His most recent book, A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2013. In this guest post, Newman draws parallels between the American campaign for independence in the 1770s, and the current campaign for Scottish independence.
On September 18th millions of voters in Scotland will head to the polls to answer a simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” As an historian of the American Revolution living and working in Scotland I am struck by the parallels not just between the two movements for independence, but more significantly between the ways in which the British government in the eighteenth century and the UK government in the twenty-first century have challenged those who sought and seek independence. Continue reading
Like many academics, I’ve spent many hours this summer in conference rooms with fluorescent lighting and insufficient air conditioning. For the most part, this has been a real pleasure—after a year of teaching, it is always invigorating to hear others present their research and engage in fruitful conversations. But one part of the experience always fills me with dread: the comment. Continue reading
Last weekend, the world of early Americanists transferred itself to Canada, for the Omohundro Institute’s annual conference. Hosted by Dalhousie and St Mary’s Universities, Halifax (Nova Scotia) provided the backdrop to the academic festivities. Though it was a long and arduous journey to Halifax (at one point I thought I might have to Skype my paper from Philadelphia airport), and though the weather frequently failed to shine (to this Brit, it was very reminiscent of summer), the conference was a tremendously well-organized feast of academic camaraderie. What follows is necessarily only a partial recap, but one that I hope gives a flavor of what was on offer. If you have other reminiscences—not least on the many panels I missed!—please do share them in the comments. Continue reading
Seminar series have been a popular facet of the early American history culture across the country, from Philadelphia and New York across to the Rocky Mountains and the Bay Area. In this post, we’re introducing another regional seminar to the mix, based around Missouri and the greater St Louis area (extending into central Illinois, and interest from eastern Kansas, southern Iowa, or northern Arkansas is most welcome). We’re hoping to foster a sense of community among those working on early American topics in the region, and to provide a supportive environment for graduate students and faculty to test out preliminary findings of their research. Continue reading
On Sunday, at the 2014 OAH Annual Meeting, I was part of a roundtable discussion entitled “Is Blogging Scholarship?” Several other participants have posted their thoughts on the subject; there was also a great deal of live-tweeting, and our own Joe Adelman has also joined (and developed!) the conversation. The discussion itself was fantastic, and was videotaped for later broadcasting. But in reflecting on the panel, I’ve found there are some points I wish to re-emphasize, and some problems I have with the way the entire roundtable was framed. Continue reading
Over 600 votes were cast in the Championship Game of Junto March Madness 2014—an NCAA Tournament-like bracket that pitted some of the best books in early American history against each other (or, at least, those published since 2000). Unlike last year, when Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom was the runaway winner from start to finish, this year’s tournament provided a nonstop series of upsets, with no number-1 seed making the Final Four, and the championship game involving a 6-seed squaring off against a 13-seed. Continue reading