Q&A with Daniel Livesay, author of Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

Daniel Livesay is Associate Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA.  His research focuses on questions of race, slavery, and family in the colonial Atlantic World. His first book, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 was published in January 2018 by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute. Casey Schmitt reviewed it yesterday here at The Junto. Daniel’s research has been supported by an NEH postdoctoral fellowship at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Fulbright Foundation, the Institute of Historical Research, and the North American Conference on British Studies, as well as number of short-term fellowships.  He is currently working on a book manuscript about enslaved individuals of advanced age in Virginia and Jamaica from 1776-1865 entitled, Endless Bondage: Old Age in New World Slavery. He graciously agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his research.
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Review: Atlantic Families, Race, and Empire

Daniel Livesay, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2018).

A central thread running through Daniel Livesay’s Children of Uncertain Fortune is deceptively simple: Atlantic families structured the development of ideologies surrounding race in the British empire during the long eighteenth century.[1] Woven through the book, however, is a richly nuanced exploration of what terms like Atlantic, family, race, and empire meant and how understandings of those terms changed over a pivotal hundred-year period starting in the 1730s. Through institutional records and family papers produced on both sides of the Atlantic, Livesay identifies 360 mixed-race people from Jamaica and traces the lived experiences of a handful of them as they navigated their social and economic position within transatlantic kin networks. Those individual narratives reveal how Britons experienced empire through family ties in ways that shaped their perceptions of race, colonialism, and belonging. Continue reading

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Presentism

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I’m trained as an early American historian, so I never anticipated that one day I’d teach a current-events course. And yet, in Fall 2017, I debuted a course called “Learning from the Past: Early America in the 21st Century.” New to my department, I had to market an early American studies course that would draw enrollments, and the best method I could think of was to convince students that the early American past had relevance to their lives. In graduate school, some of my professors argued that historians should not engage in presentism—that it would make our work seem dated to future generations of scholars. But our own political moment—I started teaching two weeks after far-right protests converged around Confederate monuments in Charlottesville—felt too urgent not to let our own moment into our discussions of the past. Instead of keeping the present in the subtext of my class, I brought it into the text. Continue reading

Why We Doubt Capable Children: Constructing Childhood in the Revolutionary Era

Mann_Page_Elizabeth_Page_John_Wollaston“My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school, but we know . . . that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.”[1] Speaking at the March for Our Lives event, 11-year old Naomi Wadler eloquently reminded us that childhood is ephemeral. Since they are future voters, she warned Capitol Hill to take the words, emotions, and pleas of children seriously. In many ways, she was also speaking to Florida State Representative Elizabeth Porter who recently exclaimed, “The adults make the law because we have the age, we has [sic] the wisdom, and we have the experience.”[2] For many like Rep. Porter, there has been something disturbing in this moment of youth activism. It cuts to the core of social stability based on the patriarchal family order—that children are subordinate, passive members of society. We inherited this idea from the eighteenth-century revolutionary era, a point in time when age became a main determinant in who could be considered a citizen and an adult. Continue reading

A New Era for The Junto

Junto LogoHey, remember us?

A few months ago we decided it was time to take a break here at The Junto. Our first five years were far better than we ever expected—you can get a run-down of our achievements here—but we were a bit burned out, to be honest. Most of us have been blogging since the beginning, and we only have so many good ideas to blog about. We were also ready for the next phase of The Junto‘s history. Continue reading

Hello from the Land of Radio Silence

Greetings, faithful readers.

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit quiet here during the last few months, but much work has been going on behind the scenes. In the coming weeks, we will be adding a number of exciting new blog members—from incoming grad students to junior faculty at a broad range of institutions. In addition, we will be unveiling a new look for the blog’s website. Please bear with us as we edit the site, and get new members’ profiles up and running. Of course, our back catalog of almost 1,000 posts dealing with all aspects of early American, digital, and public history is always available. Unfortunately, these changes do mean that we will be skipping our traditional Junto March Madness; we know some of you will be disappointed, and some of you thrilled, but we hope that our new regular content will more than make up for this omission.

We will be introducing new members and our new site in mid-April. We hope to see you back here then. In the meantime, we would like to remind all of our readers that we are always looking for guest posters to contribute to the blog. For more information about how you can contribute to The Junto, click here.

Survey on American History in the UK

Online_Survey_Icon.svgBGEAH (British Group of Early American Historians), BrANCH (British American Nineteenth Century Historians) and HOTCUS (Historians of the Twentieth Century United States) are pleased to invite participation in a new survey exploring the conditions of study, recruitment and employment within the field of American history as practiced in the UK. Continue reading