The Week in Early American History

John Bull

‘Slave Emancipation; Or, John Bull Gulled Out Of Twenty Millions’

We begin this week with the launch of University College London’s new research database on the legacy of British slaveholding. The UCL project, introduced by Catherine Hall in a lecture on Wednesday, allows website visitors to search for individual Britons who received part of the £20 million in compensation devoted to slaveholders in the 1833 emancipation act. The database has gotten some good coverage in the British press, with the Independent eagerly reporting the lurid and stunning news about “Britain’s colonial shame.” There also seems to be some interest in the finding that the ancestors of George Orwell, Graham Greene, and David Cameron, among others, received compensation for the emancipated slaves.

After the President of Emory favorably invoked the “three-fifths compromise” last week,  the New York Times convened a panel of historians and legal scholars to assess “The Constitution’s Immoral Compromise.” Paul Finkelman, Henry L. Chambers Jr., Leslie M.Harris, Sanford Levinson, and Raymond T. Diamond debate.

In the Wall Street Journal, Mark M. Smith offers the first substantive review of Walter Johnson’s long-awaited book on slavery and the Mississippi Valley.

In not-unrelated news, the Blog of 1812 posts a letter from Andrew Jackson, written 200 years ago today from a military camp in Louisiana, that advises his wife Rachel to sell their slave Sandy, who “has turned out such a rascal.” Five hundred dollars, cash in hand, would be an acceptable price.

Staying current with 1812 anniversaries, the Canadian government announced plans to commemorate Tecumseh’s role in resisting the 1813 U.S.invasion of Upper Canada.  In return for the Shawnee leader’s heroism at the Battle of Detroit and elsewhere, “the Government of Canada building located at 120 Wellington Street West in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, will be named the Tecumseh Building.”

The Starr Center has announced the four finalists for its 2013 George Washington Book Prize, given to the best new book on America’s founding era.

In Jacobin, Quentin Skinner’s recent 3am interview (also featured last week) prompts Alex Gourevitch to consider the early republican critique of “wage slavery” in America, a theory that anticipated and in some ways influenced Marx’s own.

The Appendix raises a glass, a blog post, and some good pictures in honor of drunkenness in colonial America.

A production still from “12 Years a Slave.”

The Junto has already given plenty of coverage to the historical debate over “Django Unchained,” but with Oscar Week behind us, it’s worth revisiting the relationship between cruelty, intellect and transatlantic culture  in Rivka Maizlish’s stimulating piece on “The World Tarantino Made” for the U.S. Intellectual History Blog.  Michael O’Brien and Perry Miller make appearences.

Last, but hardly least, we remain devoted to bringing you any news, gossip, or rank speculation about the forthcoming Steve McQueen/Chiwetel Ejiofor/Brad Pitt/Michael Fassbender/Michael K. Williams Solomon Northrup film. A few lucky audiences have previewed “12 Years a Slave,” and one guy (obviously the historical commentator for the scholarly site known as Fassinating Fassbender) describes the picture as more raw, emotional, and brutal than anything in “Django,” a kind of “There Will Be Blood” for the antebellum South. Oh man.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: 18th century blog round-up resumes: march edition | The Long Eighteenth


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