The Long Game of U.S. Historiography: A Century of Competing Interpretations

The Temple Early Atlantic Seminar presents a day-long symposium

The Long Game of U.S. Historiography:

A Century of Competing Interpretations

Monday, March 23, 2020

9:00 ~ Introduction

9:15-10:45 ~ François Furstenberg, Johns Hopkins University

“Frederick Jackson Turner and the Physiographic Imagination”

Although Frederick Jackson Turner has long been associated with the field of Western history, his historical vision went far beyond the U.S. West. This paper explores Turner’s fascination with the discipline of “physiography,” a late nineteenth century science that combined geography, geology, forestry, minerology, glaciology, and climate sciences more broadly. Might we even see it as a precursor of today’s environmental history?

11-12:30 ~ Harvey Neptune, Temple University

“The Lost Work of Daniel J. Boorstin: rethinking anti-racist historiography on the Early Republic”

In the widely accepted story of the anti-racist turn in Founding Fathers’ scholarship, Winthrop Jordan’s White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro figures conventionally as the “landmark,” the big book that heroically led to the scholarly “demolition” of the Jeffersonian image.  The following essay offers an alternative account, one that recovers a rarely acknowledged piece of scholarly writing that critically exposed Jeffersonian white supremacy two decades before White Over Black.   Authored by Daniel J. Boorstin, this “lost” work first appeared in 1948 in a book titled The Lost World of
Thomas Jefferson
.

1:45-3:15 ~ Johann Neem, Western Washington University

“The Fate of Democracy in the Changing Fields of Early American Historiography”

Traditionally, historians took the nation-state for granted. Embracing a global perspective, new scholars of a vaster early America have moved beyond this perspective. Their new narratives, however, reinforce neoliberal ideas of society and politics. Emphasizing exchange across borders, many histories of early America question the benefits of democracy when contrasted against empires’ capacity to create multicultural global polities.

3:30-5:30pm ~ Roundtable Discussion: The Long Game of U.S. Historiography

François Furstenberg, Harvey Neptune, Johann Neem

Chair: Jessica Choppin Roney, Temple University

** All attendees should register and plan to read the three pre-circulated papers in advance. **

Register at

https://long-game-of-us-historiography.eventbrite.com

This event is generously co-sponsored by the Temple History Department and

the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

The 1619 Project and the Work of the Historian

Yesterday Princeton historian Sean Wilentz published his latest piece opposing the 1619 Project at The Atlantic. In it, Wilentz argues that he—along with the other historians who signed a letter to the editors of the New York Times Magazine questioning the Project’s conclusions—are taking issue as a “matter of facts” that were presented in the 1619 Project, in particular in the essay authored by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead editor for the magazine’s issue, and in the letter of response from the Magazine’s editor, Jack Silverstein.

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Guest Post: Professional Motherhood: A New Interpretation of Women in the Early Republic

Directory Title Page 1828Today’s guest post comes from C.C. Borzilleri, who is a 2019 graduate of Georgetown University with a BA in History and Government. A lifelong resident of Litchfield, CT, she wrote her senior thesis on the history of women educated in her hometown. She is now working at the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, a privately funded presidential library with offices in Vermont and Washington, DC.<

With this year marking the 40th anniversary of Linda Kerber’s Women of the Republic, popularizing Republican Motherhood as an understanding of women in the Early Republic, I propose a supplementary theory to understand women in this time. Kerber’s Republican Motherhood articulated the accepted role of women: the “steady infusion of virtue into the Republic” by raising children to be responsible citizens.[1] This mindset justified the education of women because they were responsible for the early inspiration of their children to care for the new nation. Kerber emphasized the division of public and private space, with the corresponding distinction of the public for men and the private for women. But her theory does not paint the full picture of activities women carried out. Continue reading

Guest Post: Teaching the Caribbean in the Age of Vast Early America

Guest Post: Teaching the Caribbean in the Age of Vast Early America

In today’s guest post, R. Grant Kleiser, a PhD candidate at Columbia University discusses his experience with teaching the Caribbean as a part of Vast Early America. Kleiser studies the early modern Atlantic world and his proposed dissertation examines the establishment of free ports in eighteenth-century British, Spanish, French, Danish, and Dutch Caribbean islands, investigating their promulgation within various political-economic philosophies and measuring their effect on “free trade” economic philosophers such as David Hume and Adam Smith, American Revolutionaries, Spanish Bourbon reformers, and British politicians. He has been a Teaching Assistant for the course, “The Modern Caribbean,” this semester under the direction of Dr. Natasha Lightfoot. 

“Draw the Caribbean.”

That was the first in-class assignment I gave my students as a Teaching Assistant in the course, The Modern Caribbean, taught by Dr. Natasha Lightfoot at Columbia University. I am incredibly indebted to Molly Perry of the University of the Virgin Islands for providing me with the inspiration for this activity. Perry, a Ph.D. graduate of William and Mary and a professor of Caribbean history told me that she always invites her students to “draw the Caribbean” on the first day of class. Some people would detail a couple of the “bigger” islands (the Greater Antilles), others would include the outlines of Central, South and North America along with various “dots” signifying the Lesser Antilles, while some took the assignment as an invitation to produce a picture of people relaxing on a sand beach with palm trees swaying in the wind.

I thought that all these potential drawings could occasion a teaching moment for reflection on geography, various understandings of what the Caribbean is perceived to be, and the need for defining terms (such as the Caribbean) based on legitimate and well-stated criteria. A perfect assignment to start of the semester, I assured myself. What I did not expect was for it to be thrown back in my face. Continue reading

Q&A: Erik R. Seeman, Speaking with the Dead in Early America

picture-155-1357242582Today, the Junto features a Q&A with Erik R. Seeman about his new book, Speaking with the Dead in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press). Seeman is professor and chair of the history department at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and the author of three other books on religion and deathways in early America and the Atlantic World. He has also published many articles and essays, including in the William and Mary Quarterly, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of American History, and Church History. Continue reading

Guest Post: In Memoriam: Michal Jan Rozbicki

In today’s guest post, Cho-Chien Feng, a PhD candidate at Saint Louis University, remembers his late advisor, Michal Jan Rozbicki, and his last book, Culture and Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011). Before Rozbicki began his twenty-seven tenure at Saint Louis University in 1992, he served as Director of the American Studies Center at Warsaw University. His first book on early America, The Complete Colonial Gentleman: Cultural Legitimacy in Plantation America, was published in 1998. He passed away on July 31, 2019.

Professor Michal Jan Rozbicki passed away on July 31, 2019 after retiring from teaching this June. As a student of his, I would like to take this opportunity to revisit his contributions to the early American history and hopefully stimulate some further reflections or conversations. In the summer of 2011, when I went to New York to conduct research for my master’s thesis, I found his book, Culture and Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution, in a bookstore. After reading few pages, I was so attracted by his ideas and viewpoints that I knew I wanted to contact this author and see if I could be his student. That was what I did, and that was how I came to Saint Louis. Continue reading