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

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

The Early Americanist Holiday Book List; Or, My Favorite Books from 2012

If there is a better purpose for an academic blog than to make lists of must-have books and dents in your Amazon budget, I am not aware of it. As the first of what I hope will be an annual tradition, here are ten of my favorite books from the past 12 months. It is obvious that I have particular interests and tastes (early republic, religion, politics), but I tried to expand my comfort zone and include a few titles from other fields. So if you are looking for books you may have missed, need a reminder for books you still need to buy, or require evidence to present to your significant other, you have come to the right place.

(Placing any of these books on your holiday book list, of course, assumes that you have already purchased this year’s “must have” gift for early Americanists, the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel t-shirt, seen to the right.) Continue reading