Junto March Madness Round 1, Day 1: Brackets 1 and 2

Michael Buffer placed his money on a Morgan vs. Brown championship match.

Michael Buffer placed his money on a Morgan vs. Brown championship match.

The time for predictions is past; the time for voting is now.

(For the entire bracket, as well as an overview of the tournament, see here.)

At the end of this post, you will have the opportunity to vote on all the first round match-ups from Brackets 1 and 2. We would ask that everyone votes just once, though we encourage you to get friends, family, and people using the computers next to you to vote as well. Voting will close at midnight, eastern time.

But before we get to the polls, The Junto has produced its very first (lo-fi) podcast (something we hope to do more of in the future) previewing first-round match-ups, hosted by Ken Owen along with Rachel Herrmann, Roy Rogers, and Michael Hattem.

Also, each March Madness post will include brief analysis on that day’s match-up. These will come in a form similar to ESPN’s “Five on Five” feature, further cementing the sports crossover, though we will not always feature five questions nor five responses.  We encourage our readers to offer their own answers to the questions below, as well as any other reactions the day’s match-ups elicit. Just remember the two rules:

  1. The tournament is not meant to be taken seriously.
  2. The tournament is primarily a means to solicit discussions.


QUESTION ONE: What is the most intriguing match-up in bracket one?

Me: The obvious headline match-up is between Gordon-Reed and Genovese—two books that skillfully reconstruct the world of slaves in early America. What is interesting is they each display a different approach in accomplishing that goal: the former focuses on a single individual, which requires a lot of investigation into specific people and settings, while the latter is much more broad in sweep and requires a large grasp of the context and understanding of heterogeneous sub-cultures. Personally, I favor Gordon-Reed because it is written in a way that reaches a much larger audience, but the influence on Genovese’s opus on the field makes it very tempting.

QUESTION TWO: What is the most intriguing match-up in bracket two?

Tom Cutterham: Bailyn v Warner and Wood v Waldstreicher. Taken together, this is not just a battle between generations, but between the two classic exponents of “ideological” style and two of the most important critiques of that approach. Of course all four books are interested in public thought and political culture, and they make powerful arguments for the importance of ordinary people’s ways of thinking. If you think Habermas and his public sphere is a useful concept in early American history, you’ll be backing Warner. But for my money, Waldstreicher is the underdog whose triumph here would be most deserved. Its powerful critique of nationalism as an interpretative heuristic, and its insistence on politics and class all the way down, Perpetual Fetes is really a more important book today than Ideological Origins.

Me: How can it not be Waldstreicher vs. Wood? The latter is the founder for an entire historiographical movement, yet the former is representative of the historiographical turn against that movement. This might very well be a generational choice, but Wood might have a hard time holding up against Waldstreicher considering this blog’s demographics. (Plus, if any of us want to publish in JER in the next five years, we know who we have to vote for!)

QUESTION THREE: What is your upset pick in bracket one?

Tom Cutterham: I’d love to see Griffin going further in this thing, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, and honestly, I wouldn’t vote against American Slavery, American Freedom at this stage. Brewer is my pick for upset win: By Birth or Consent is a really important corrective to the standard view of Locke and liberalism.

Me: There are three possible upsets that I see, depending on how strong a showing the religious historians make. Both Hatch and Butler have shaped the field of religious history in early America, so I think they have the opportunity to hold up against stiff competition. But I’m more curious about Noll challenging Johnson and Wilentz; on the one hand, The Kingdom of Matthias is a classroom favorite and nearly everyone raves about it, but Noll’s American God is the religious equivalent of Woods’s Creation of the American Republic in influencing how historians consider republicanism in American thought.

QUESTION FOUR: What is your upset pick in bracket two?

Katy Lasdow: I’m hoping for a ‘ladies versus gentlemen’ upset between Parlor Politics and Affairs of Honor. Who doesn’t like a bit of intrigue, gossip, and scandal? (If you’re in Washington in the early republic, Allgor and Freeman argue, you will certainly find it!) Allgor demonstrates that female political participation through social events and alliance formation was a force to be reckoned with, while Freeman showcases how male-dominated honor culture shaped notions of gentility and governance. Will Mrs. Madison’s turban or Mr. Adams’ quill signal a surprise in Bracket 2?

Me: Depending on if the legions of grad students and young academics who look to Peter Onuf as their academic father show up or not, and putting aside the Waldstreicher-over-Wood comment I made above, I’m curious to see if Rhys Isaac can mount a surprise on Alfred F.  Young. Though The Shoemaker and the Revolution was read by nearly every history undergrad as a way to understand how historic figures and icons develop over time, the sheer beauty, reach, and, dare I say it, audacity of Isaac’s classic text make it my surprise pick.

Enough jabbering; bring on the voting!



1. Edumund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom

16. Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier

8. Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

9. Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made

5. Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean

12. Clare Lyons, Sex Among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia, 1730-1830

4. Gregory Evans Dowd, A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815

13. Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity

6. Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America

11. Mark Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

3. Jack P. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture

14. Holly Brewer, By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority

7. Richard Godbeer, Sexual Revolution in Early America

10. Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People

2. Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812

15. Richard Brown, Knowledge is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700-1865



1. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812

16. John Mack Faragher, Women and Men on the Overland Trail

8. Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution

9. Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790

5. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787

12. David Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism

4. Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia

13. Robert Gross, The Minutemen and their World

6. James Merrell, Into the American Woods: Negotiations on the Pennsylvania Frontier

11. Peter Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson

3. Catherine Allgor, Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government

14. Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

7. Daniel Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

10. Gary Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution

2. Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

15. Michael Warner, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century

21 responses

  1. Also, fantastic podcast, everyone; really enjoyed it.

    As for books that we missed, I think the text I am most disappointed about not included was Philip Morgan’s SLAVE COUNTERPOINT.

    As for fields that have been overlooked, in hindsight I can tell that our nominations skew toward Anglo-centric, post-1750, and not very “Atlantic.” But, c’est la vie.

  2. Also, my upset pick is COMANCHE EMPIRE making the Final Four.

    As for favorite, I’m picking Ulrich to win it all.

    • My own “overlooked” pick would be John Shy’s A PEOPLE NUMEROUS AND ARMED, though perhaps it’s not as influential now as it was when I was in grad school.

      So, is Junto March Madness going to be an annual event?

  3. I enjoyed the podcast. Kudos to all of you for making predictions. You are all very brave, but I honestly have no clue how it will turn out because we all know that historians love to argue and be contrary.

    Since the purpose of this is to stimulate discussion and to put a spotlight on works that deserve promotion, I have to say I was disappointed that Rebecca Anne Goetz’s The Baptism of Early Virginia did not receive a second to my nomination. Because of her work I shall not be rooting for Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom. In her work, she directly confronts Morgan’s thesis of class conflict being integral to the creation of race and argues for the importance of Protestantism for the creation of race. She also has interesting thinks to say about Protestant views of heathen Indians and their prospects for conversion. She also challenges Jordan’s view that enslavement of Africans was an “unthinking” decision. So in this work she takes on a number one and a number two seed.

    It is a shame that this book just came out about six months ago. This work deserved a high seed and a much wider audience.

    Someone needs to do a post on this work, or call her up and interview her for a podcast.

    • Brian: I totally agree that it is a shame Goetz’s book didn’t advance. I definitely think there was a bias against *really* recent works, because it is difficult to guess their future influence. I’m sure Baptism of Early Virginia will make future lists, though.

      Another similar example is Brett Rushforth’s Bonds of Alliance, which takes on White’s “middle ground” thesis in a very persuasive manner. I’m sure that book will be a heavy favorite in future lists, too.

    • Brian:

      I think you are largely correct about the importance of Goetz’s book but I think the book is far too new to make a list/contest like this. In a couple of years? Definitely. 🙂

      [The book is also too expensive! $55 for a physical copy? $39.59 for the Kindle edition? And only 240 pages? Ack! Too much for me to acquire a desk copy at the moment and my University Library system doesn’t have a copy yet…]

      Personally, I would love to write something up about the book. I’ll put your suggestion in the mental pipeline. It is a new book that absolutely deserves more attention!

  4. Oh, my. Some of these were no-brainers, and some choices were nigh on near impossible. I agree with Benjamin’s notation that the picks are skewed Anglo, pre-1750 (no Karen Kupperman or James Axtell, WHAT?!?), but still excellent works.

  5. Nick Cox suggested on FB that limiting the selection to the last 10 years would help even out the competition with the classics. (Personally, I think 20 years would be a good cut-off–enough time to age into, maybe not enough time to become outdated.) Something to consider in the future.

    Regardless, I like that someone came up with this idea, and I hope it’s repeated in the future.

    • That’s an interesting thought, Mark. I think 20 (to 25) years would have been good. My suggestion to do it annually is to do it with only books published in the last 12-15 months and the winner being given The Junto Book Award or something like that. Even though there’d be no actual cash prize, it would be decided by the readers of the blog (and the books) so might be more meaningful (in a different way) than an award given by a small anonymous committee. Also, I think that all the problems in terms of nomination selections would’ve been hammered out if we had given over a few days to nominations rather than one, so that is definitely something to consider in the future.

      • I think it’s better to do an exercise like this every 4 or so years; we could call it the Junto Olympics! In the meantime, as has been suggested, we could run similar brackets for more specific ‘fields’ of books.

  6. My upset pick for the whole tourney: Daniel Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America –> a wonderful attempt – even with some notable flaws – to redirect Native American history in an intriguing and engaging way.

    And off the top of my head, a few overlooked (“bubble”) books that struck me are Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks and Horn, Adapting to a New World.

    Good job though, this will be a very exciting tournament!

    • Steve, thanks for commenting!

      The Horn books was nominated (but not seconded, I think) and I do not believe the Gomez was mentioned in the process at all. It is an good book, however!

      • Next time, I’ll be sure to be involved earlier so I can do some nominating and seconding personally! Very exciting nonetheless…

  7. I wanted to vote, but I haven’t read many of the books in the tournament. Therefore I refrained because I didn’t think it would be fair to vote on reputation alone or to favor one book that I have read over one that I haven’t. I do know one thing that is very beneficial from this event and that is expanding my reading list. I already have an order placed for several books from the field.

    • Jimmy – do keep looking back. I’m sure as the tournament progresses the chances of a matchup featuring books you’ve read will increase. And there’s no harm in only voting for only some of the matchups (that in itself would be interesting, in comparing ‘vote-winners’ in different rounds).


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