Looking Less Backward: Ten (Relatively) Recent Books That Anyone Interested In Early American History Should Read

The day after Christmas, The New Republic published a piece by Senior Editor, John J. Judis, entitled “Looking Backward: Ten Books Any Student of American History Must Read.” The piece began promisingly (flatteringly, even): “I woke up on Christmas morning thinking about American historians.” [Editor's Note: Wouldn't the world be a better place if more people did that?] Judis closed the opening paragraph with the following caveat: “They’re my favorites; they’re not the best books.” Each book was followed by a paragraph with some combination of a brief synopsis and Judis’s own reactions. I have linked to the article but, just for reference, I’ll list his ten picks here: Continue reading

Articles of Note: Spring and Summer 2013

Many months ago, I posted the first of what I hoped to be a quarterly series highlighting recent articles I enjoyed, and inviting readers to do the same. Sadly, life got in the way, and so I have a bit to make up. As a recap for this roundup’s purpose: there are so many journals publishing quality articles in the field of early American history that it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up. So this list serves as a reminder that you need to catch up on new issues, a identify articles I found especially important, as well as a chance to highlight the work of young scholars and friends. Just because an article doesn’t make the list doesn’t mean I didn’t like it—in fact, I am way behind on my own reading—but it is an invitation to list your own favorite recent articles in the comments below.

The following articles were published between March and September, and obviously reflect my own interests and background. Also, remember the fantastic articles in the special WMQ issue on families and the Atlantic world that I highlighted a few months ago. Continue reading

The Future of the Past Is Now: Digital Humanities Resource Guide

Inspired by the work of colleagues @ the new Digital Public Library of America and others we’ve interviewed here at The Junto, here are some bookmark-worthy links to what’s going on in the ever-evolving field of the digital humanities. We’ll update this list as projects develop, so if you’re working on a digital history initiative, please let us know so we can add it to the Resources page.

If you use new media in the classroom, how effective do you find it to be in communicating historical content/class themes? Please share your views on digital pedagogy in the comments. Continue reading

The Junto March Madness: Nominating Books for the Early American History Brackets

What happens when you mix early American history nerdyness with basketball geekyness? Junto March Madness!

Jackson would obviously have won any physical competition, likely by cheating, but will any books dealing with Jacksonian America win the historiographical tournament?

Jackson would obviously have won any physical competition, likely by cheating, but will any books dealing with Jacksonian America win the historiographical tournament?

In honor of the NCAA Tournament games tipping off in a few hours, and in reaction to the recent announcement of Bancroft Prize winners (which tragically did not include any book explicitly dedicated to early America), we here at the Junto decided to jump in on the competition atmosphere with brackets of our own: a several-bracket-tournament of books in early American history. Today, we submit competitors. The Junto team will then narrow the field to either 32 or, if we get enough submissions, 64, and rank them in brackets. (The organization of brackets is still up in the air—we could go with thematic regions like political, cultural, religious, and synthetic, or we could even go chronological with colonial, revolutionary, early republic, or Civil War-era, or we could even go with histiographical eras—and largely depends on the submissions. We are very open to suggestions, though, so please chime in in the comments!)

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The beauty of this competition depends on being fun, so the first and most important rule is not to take it too seriously. Deciding the winner is purely subjective and based on what are likely a widely variegated criteria of excellence including, but not limited to, most influential, best-written, most sophisticated, or even most popular. When in question, go with your gut reaction. Or, just go with your favorite. A debate between Laurel Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale and Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial is, of course, silly, because both books can be categorized as the top of the field yet they examine completely different issues through very different approaches. But it is, nonetheless, fun to compare, debate, and, indeed, vote. This is designed to be fun, people, so once again: DO NOT TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. (But we still expect the winner to add this great accolade to the top of her/his C.V.) Continue reading

Journal Articles in 2012: A Retrospective

AHR

BuzzFeed would point out that God is totally portrait-bombing Pétion and Dessalines here.

“The list,” says Umberto Eco, “is the origin of culture… What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.” This impossible project has inspired dauntless gallants from Homer to BuzzFeed, and even in our own brief existence, The Junto has already made a valuable contribution to that noblest of list genres, the year-in-review inventory.

Today I’ll attempt to advance the cause of culture with a few notes on the particular infinity of early American history articles published in 2012. Unfortunately I can’t apologize for my own personal and intellectual biases, which lean toward international politics, slavery and abolition, and historiography, all of it within the nineteenth century. A successful list is usually just private prejudice, artfully compressed and shrewdly disguised—Homer, after all, chose to focus on the Achaeans’ black ships and famous spearmen rather than their haircuts or favorite foods; the BuzzFeed guy sems to have a thing for marine mammals. But you should know where I’m coming from before we proceed. Continue reading