The Junto March Madness: The Bracket Is Here!

Today is the day you’ve all been waiting for with eager anticipation–the official unveiling of the Junto’s March Madness bracket! Thank you to all who nominated books yesterday–this whole project wouldn’t have been possible without it.

The response to yesterday’s call for nominations was overwhelming, with over 150 books receiving nominations, and over half of those receiving more than one mention. As such, The Junto’s Selection Committee had a difficult task whittling down the nominees to a bracket of 64, and an even tougher time organizing it into something resembling the NCAA tournament.

(Side note: I will never be so swift to criticize the work of the basketball seeding committee ever again). We ultimately fixed on the following principles:

1) Seeds 1 through 8 in each bracket were decided on the basis of the number of votes (or “seconds”) each book received.

2) One book per historian.

3) Books were not assigned to Brackets 1, 2, 3 or 4 on any particular basis other than the potential for interesting conversation.

4) For seeds 9 through 16, we simply tried to create matchups that would spark discussion.

In case the principles outlined above didn’t make it clear, this is designed to be frivolous and fun. I repeat . . . THIS IS MEANT TO BE FUN. If any subfields or subtopics seem underrepresented, it is simply because the sample size of persons nominating the books was very small in relation to the size of the field. We’re not out to find the “best” book in early American history; we simply want to have fun, interesting and informative conversations about early American historiography.

So, when voting, please keep that in mind. Don’t vote for the book you necessarily think is the “best,” but which one is your favorite of the two.



Starting on Monday, we will be using polls placed here at the Junto to allow you to choose the winner for any given match-up. The rules are simple: the book with the most votes proceeds to the next round; we’ll continue until there’s only one book left standing.

Voting will proceed according to the following schedule:

Round One (Round of 64)

Monday, March 25th – Brackets 1 and 2
Tuesday, March 26th – Brackets 3 and 4
Wednesday, March 27th – Recap

Round Two (Round of 32)

Thursday, March 28th – Brackets 1 and 2
Friday, March 29th – Brackets 3 and 4
Monday, April 1st – Recap

Sweet 16 / Elite 8

Tuesday, April 2nd – Sweet 16
Wednesday, April 3rd  – Elite 8
Thursday, April 4th –  Recap

Final Four

Friday, April 5th


Monday, April 8th



Bracket 1

1. Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom (1) vs Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan (16)

2. Winthrop Jordan, White Over Black (2) vs Richard Brown, Knowledge Is Power (15)

3. Jack Greene, Pursuits of Happiness (3) vs Holly Brewer, By Birth or Consent (14)

4. Gregory Dowd, A Spirited Resistance (4)  vs. Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (13)

5. Andrew O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided (5) vs. Clare Lyons, Sex Among The Rabble (12)

6. Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias (6) vs. Mark Noll, America’s God (11)

7. Richard Godbeer, The Sexual Revolution in Early America (7) vs. Jon Butler, Awash In A Sea of Faith (10)

8. Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello (8) vs. Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll (9)


Bracket 2

1. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale (1) vs. John Mack Farragher, Men and Women on the Overland Trail (16)

2. Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (2) vs. Michael Warner, Letters of the Republic (15)

3. Catherine Allgor, Parlor Politics (3) vs. Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor (14)

4. Woody Holton, Forced Founders (4) vs. Robert Gross, The Minutemen and Their World (13)

5. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic (5) vs. David Waldstreicher, In The Midst of Perpetual Fetes (12)

6. James Merrell, Into The American Woods (6) vs. Peter Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (11)

7. Daniel Richter, Facing East From Indian Country (7) vs. Gary Nash, Urban Crucible (10)

8. Alfred Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party (8) vs. Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia (9)


Bracket 3

1. William Cronon, Changes In The Land (1) vs. Susan Scott Parrish, American Curiosity (16)

2. Kathleen Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches and Anxious Patriarchs (2) vs.David Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters (15)

3. T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution (3) vs. Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America (14)

4. Trish Loughran, The Republic In Print (4) vs. Seth Rockman, Scraping By (13)

5. Max Edling, A Revolution In Favor of Government (5) vs. Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic (12)

6. Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution (6) vs. Catherine Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World (11)

7. Peter Wood, Black Majority (7) vs. Marcus Rediker, The Slave Ship (10)

8. Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles (8) vs. David Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgement (9)


Bracket 4

1. Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town (1) vs. David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (16)

2. Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone (2) vs. Monica Najar, Evangelizing the South (15)

3. Jill Lepore, The Name of War (3) vs. Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors (14)

4. Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire (4) vs. James Brooks, Captives and Cousins (13)

5. Richard White, The Middle Ground (5) vs. Kathleen DuVal, The Native Ground (12)

6. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul (6) vs. Anne Hyde, Empires, Nations and Families (11)

7. Ann Martin, Buying Into The World Of Goods (7) vs. Mary Beth Norton, Liberty’s Daughters (10)

8. Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash (8) vs. Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men (9)

What follows are images of the brackets. You can download them in PDF here, and in DOC here.

(Compare to here to see the seeding order we followed, with the top seed as the first listed, and the second seed in the last matchup.)

Bracket One

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.35.08Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.35.20

Bracket Two

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.35.31Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.35.44

Bracket Three

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.35.55Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.36.07

Bracket Four

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.36.16Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 01.36.26

25 responses

    • Guidelines should be in the post. We’ll put up polls for voting starting Monday; you get to digest the rich nerdiness over the weekend…

  1. Great job on the seeding! Like the NCAA tourney, I wonder if some of those 5 v. 12 matchups will result in upsets.

    Since voting doesn’t start until Monday what say we offer our thoughts on the toughest choices in the bunch. I’ll open with The Hemingses of Monticello (8) vs. Roll, Jordan, Roll (9).

  2. It will be interesting to see how the match ups correlate with the tastes of the crowd. Will all the number one seeds advance to the Final Four? Which top seed will be the first to fall? What will be the highest seed to fall in the first round? How many double digit seeds will advance to the Sweet Sixteen?

    My agonizing choice will be the Edling – McCoy tilt. Do I go with one of my favorite books for over 30 years, or do I go with a much newer book which I think is an important corrective to 20th century constitutional historiography?

  3. Ironic, a discipline that emphasizes detachment and at least an attempt at objectivity deciding on a “best” book competition based on subjective voting emulating a sports activity supported and endorsed by partisanship and boosterism decided by an “objective” competition.

    Not trying to throw cold water on the proceedings, just saying….

    • Wherever did we claim this was an objective, or even responsible, tournament? We’ve been quite open that this is silly, very objective, and just for fun.

      • It’s good clear fun. There hasn’t been any gambling on these picks–yet. Nor has anyone yet written a paper illustrating the parallels of collegiate exploitation of athletes and academics from these activities. But then again two somebodies have given Paul two thumbs down so far . . .

      • Ben,
        This may ruin my opportunity to get the most thumbs down record or maybe it’ll enhance it but my observation was just that, an observation, not a condemnation. And for the record I know you said it was just for fun, isn’t that what sports are all about? I’m sure Freud would point out that even fun events can be revealing and speaking of Freud your second sentence might need editing.
        Thanks for the post I really am enjoying it! 🙂

    • Paul, you are failing to make a distinction between history and historiography. We, like most historians, try to be very objective about history, but being objective about historiography is another story. We all have historians and books that we either love or some that we dislike intensely. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This “game” will allow historians and non-historians alike to have discussions about books and methodologies and will expose people to works of which they’d have otherwise been unaware. It’s a win-win for everyone (except those who take it too seriously or those who come to it pre-inclined to criticize). Remember, the brackets and all that are just the means. Like with The Junto itself, the ends are a bit of fun and a lot of discussion. The Junto March Madness is a lot like life; it’s about the journey, not the destination.

  4. If nothing else, I now have a source for some reading that I might have passed over. Not being an academic by profession and a historian by avocation only, I don’t always find out about books, old or new, that would be helpful to my continuing education in the field. While I may not contribute to much of the discussion, I enjoy following it because it gives me the push to keep reading and keep learning. Thanks to all of you for that.

  5. The ones getting me are Dowd vs Hatch, and Holton vs Gross. Each fantastic in their own way. I’ve loved Hatch’s book for so long. but Dowd’s is really emotionally moving in a way that people acting as ducks doesn’t evoke in the same way.

    As for Gross and Holton- I love teaching both of them. Students love the stories of people who lived there, but Holton really brings the Virginia elite down a peg- and my students love that too. I’m assigning both of them next semester. How to choose!?

  6. I respectfully but firmly dissent from this entire exercise, save as a way of compiling useful lists of important and challenging books in our field. It makes no sense to pit such books against one another — who is supposed to win in a contest between AMERICAN SLAVERY, AMERICAN FREEDOM and WHITE OVER BLACK? Nobody wins except the national obsession with sports. Someday there will be a cure.

    • Which part of “We’re not out to find the ‘best’ book in early American history; we simply want to have fun, interesting and informative conversations about early American historiography.” don’t you understand? People are thinking, rereading, evaluating, and talking about great writing, innovative approaches, and pondering their own biases, and you want a “cure?” Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. Best Wishes 😉


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