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

Creating a Public History Program

Public history is having a bit of a renaissance right now. The data is a few years old now, but in 2008, job announcements in public history rose 27.9 percent. There was an increase the following year.[1] Most in the history profession will note 2008 not only as the year of the recession, but also as a year that saw a sharp downturn in the already-atrocious academic job market. This job market data refers to faculty jobs to train public history, but it is indicative of an increased focus by history departments to expand or introduce public history curricula.

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Decoding Diplomacy

JA Steady 2

John Adams, Codename: “Steady”

Ciphers, codes, and keys—plus reflections on how to encrypt sensitive developments in early American diplomacy—run through the papers of two generations in the Adams family’s saga of public service. So how did they use secrecy in statecraft? Continue reading

Object Lessons

Iron Yoke Slave Collar John A. Andrew Artifact Collection, MHS

Iron Yoke Slave Collar
John A. Andrew Artifact Collection, MHS

Questions first ignited in a comprehensive exam room have an electric way of rippling through your whole career, whether you’re teaching in a university classroom and/or in the realms of public history. Take, for example, a standard query about nineteenth-century material culture: How would you tell a history of the American Civil War in five objects?

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Making the Adams Papers

acornNearly a quarter of a million manuscript pages, and almost fifty volumes to show for it: As we mark the 60th anniversary of production at the Adams Papers editorial project, here’s an inside look at our process, from manuscript to volume. Continue reading

Guest Post: Reclaiming a Buried Past: Slavery, Memory, Public History, and Portsmouth’s African Burying Ground

Jessica Parr received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012. Her research interests are race and religion in the Early Modern British Atlantic. Her first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon is forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi (2015). She currently teaches at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. This is her second guest post for The Junto.

It was a scene that has been repeated in several American cities. In 2003, during an infrastructure project, 13 coffins containing unidentified human remains were found in Portsmouth, NH. Eight of the remains were exhumed for examination and confirmed as being of African descent, and later as part of a 1705 African Burying Ground, once on the city’s outskirts. As Portsmouth expanded, burying ground was built over and largely forgotten. Five additional sets of remains were found in 2008 during an archaeological dig on the site. Experts believe that 200 or more burials could have taken place in this 1705 African Burying Ground.[1]  Continue reading

One-Star Amazon Reviews of Pulitzer Winners

Portrait Of Joseph PulitzerWe talk a lot about accessibility in historical writing. Many of us worry whether the academic historical profession has much to say to a broad popular audience. It’s a pretty old form of anxiety. But what do the general public in the United States really want from their history books?

A few days ago, I decided to try an experiment. I collected all the one-star customer reviews at Amazon.com for the last twenty years of Pulitzer Prize winners in history. (No award was given in 1994, so I included books from 1995 to 2014.) I wanted to see whether I could identify common complaints. Obviously, this wouldn’t be a very scientific experiment, but at least it would be reasonably systematic—slightly better, perhaps, than relying on anecdotes from acquaintances.

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