The JuntoCast, Episode 6: The Continental Congress

The JuntoCastSubmitted for your approval . . . the November episode of “The JuntoCast.” This month, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers discuss the Continental Congress, including a number of recent popular histories about it, its popular and academic historiography, and various aspects of its importance.  Continue reading

Howard & Me

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States changed my life.[1]

People's History

My personal copy of the 2003 edition of A People History of the United States. Also featured: my cat Marshall.

I grew up in very historically minded family. My recollections of my boyhood and tween years are filled with sweaty summer memories of traipsing with my mother and sister through every Revolutionary and Civil War battlefield between the mid-Atlantic and Upper South—from Gettysburg to Yorktown.[2] We regularly took the Orange Line into Washington to go to the National Museum of American History. The History Channel, when we had cable, was a regular fixture on our television.[3] All of this history education was very traditional—all Presidents, bloodshed, and American Exceptionalism.[4] My understanding of American history only became more traditional once I entered a conservative Catholic high school.

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Was The American Revolution A Good Thing?

Readers of early American history blogs will undoubtedly have come across the recent kerfuffle regarding the divide between academic and public historians of the American Revolution, which stemmed from a series of posts by Peter Feinman assessing the conference. Much of the debate has centered around this post, in which Feinman chided academic historians for their failure to answer the question: “Was the American Revolution a good thing?” Roy Rogers posted an excellent response to this here last week; J.L. Bell at Boston 1775 had other reflections on Monday (and is continuing to address the topic in other posts).

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Guest Post: Sports Talk Radio, Sabermetrics, and Carl Becker

Mark Boonshoft is a PhD candidate at Ohio State University. His work focuses on colleges and academies, especially the networks forged in them, and their role in the formation of revolutionary political culture. 

WFAN 660 AM

“Long time listener, first time caller.” These are words I heard often as a kid. I grew up listening to sports talk radio—mostly 660AM, WFAN-New York—and this is how many a caller introduced themselves. I’ve limited my habit—I no longer keep a transistor radio quietly playing under my pillow while I sleep—but I have not shaken it entirely. Long car rides are still a good chance to binge, and binge I did this July Fourth weekend. Driving through Albany, I called in for the first time ever. Continue reading

History Is Not Science

Over at Slate last week, our Junto colleague Eric Herschthal reviewed some of the latest popular histories of revolutionary America, including two new studies of the years around 1776 by Richard Beeman and Joseph Ellis. Eric takes a very critical view of the analytical stance of the books–arguing that they are too in thrall to outdated and invalidated historical techniques; focusing too much on elites and ‘leadership’ at the expense of more recent trends in scholarship, such as the new emphasis on those who stayed (or tried to stay) neutral during the Revolutionary War.

Perhaps the most provocative part of the review is this statement:

“If you bought a popular book on science, one that came with a similar sheen of intellectual prestige, and learned that it essentially ignored years’ worth of scholarship, you’d demand your money back. Why should history be any different?”

To me, the answer seems self-evident. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHHere at The Junto, we’ve spent the last week with our noses buried in one really, really good book. But there’s been much afoot elsewhere, both on the web and beyond.

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The JuntoCast is Here!

The JuntoCastToday, The Junto is happy to present the first episode of “The JuntoCast,” our new monthly podcast featuring Juntoists discussing issues related to early American history, academia, pedagogy, and public history. As we embark on this venture, the first few episodes will be experimental as we try to find the best method for recording a podcast with 3 or 4 participants literally thousands of miles apart. The podcast will appear once per calendar month and the length of the podcast will likely vary anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes. As always, any feedback will be greatly appreciated, including suggesting future topics to be covered. Continue reading

On Popularity and Self-Publishing

My wife is a knitter, and she’s explained to me the subtle difference observed, among those in her guild, when referring to someone’s work as “handmade” or “homemade.”  Both acknowledge the difference between the sweater you spent months on and something mass-produced.  The former, though, implies that for the piece in question that difference is measured in care and craftsmanship, while the latter measures it in imperfections.  It’s the difference between, “You made that yourself?!” and “You made that yourself, huh?” Continue reading

Review: Todd Andrlik, “Reporting the Revolutionary War”

My interests in the late colonial and revolutionary periods include print culture and history of the book. Ever since I was an undergraduate and first accessed a Readex database, I have been fascinated with colonial newspapers and not just the content but with the mechanics, logistics, and persons involved. Every major research project I have undertaken has made significant use of newspapers and pamphlets. In that time, I have come to understand and appreciate the centrality and importance of newspapers to colonial life, particularly in but not limited to urban areas. Indeed, I have always felt quite privileged to have access to such primary sources and perhaps it is part of the standard vanity of the historian but I also always suspected that general readers—the kind who buy books about the Revolution by the truckload—would be just as interested in seeing and just as excited by these primary sources as I continue to be. Todd Andrlik thought the same thing and his book, Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before it was History, it was News, appears to have proven me right. Continue reading