Junto March Madness: Round Two Results

The Sweet Sixteen is set! Thanks to everyone who participated; yesterday’s polling turned out to be the largest to date, as nearly 250 different IPs registered votes. We can only hope the momentum continues in the next round!

Following the results, I’ll ask some questions in hopes to start a lively discussion.



1. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom 78%

9. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll 22%


4. O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided 50.5%

5. Dowd, A Spirited Resistance 49.5%


6. Johnson & Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias 37%

3. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness 63%


7. Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith 38%

2. Jordan, White Over Black 62%



1. Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale 59%

9. Isaac, The Tranformation of Virginia 41%


5. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic 62%

4. Holton, Forced Founders 38%


6. Merrell, Into the Woods 57%

3. Allgor, Parlor Politics 43%


7. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country 51%

2. Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution 49%



1. Cronon, Changes in the Land 85%

9. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment 15%


12. McCoy, The Elusive Republic 18%

13. Rockman, Scraping By 82%


6. Sellers, The Market Revolution, 72%

3. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution 28%


10. Rediker, The Slave Ship 72%

2. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs 28%



1. Taylor, WIlliam Cooper’s Town 27%

9. Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men 73%


5. White, The Middle Ground 43%

4. Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire 57%


6. Johnson, Soul by Soul 74%

3. Lepore, The Name of War 26%


10. Norton, Liberty’s Daughters 22%

2. Berlin, Many Thousands Gone 78%


Holy upsets, batman!

What was the most surprising result? (Many, for me, could be named, starting with Rediker and Foner destroying Brown and Taylor!)

What Sweet 16 matchup is most intriguing?

Voting starts next week!

22 responses

  1. This is crazy! I think my votes lost every SINGLE time No wait, I voted for Ulrich over Isaac, and Richter over Bailyn.All my other votes went to the other book. Some of them are incredibly surprising to me. I agree that Foner over Taylor and Rediker over Brown are shocking. Those results actually made me exclaim out loud (it’s lucky I didn’t wake my 10 month old from his nap- argh!). What’s going on?

  2. Hamalainen over White? Gimme a break… And the Name of War? Not much consideration for Native Early America around here. Also Wood over Holton: some radical fans please rid us of Gordon.
    Next round highlights: Berlin vs Johnson, colonial vs Antebellum slavery; Sellers vs Rediker, slaver vs market.

    • You neglect to mention Richter over Bailyn, which pretty much destroys your statement “Not much consideration for Native America around here. There’s plenty of PC preference for narrowly targeted scholarship over the traditional landmarks.

      • I’m not sure how one could consider the works of Richard White, Kill Lepore, and Daniel Richter as narrow and politically correct… Maybe Richter’s work is just way more relevant to Bailyn’s admittedly significant book in today’s America? To describe early America as Indian country is a historical argument, not a statement of political correctness, and who would write or teach the history of the American Revolution today as Bailyn did in Ideological origins? Not even him, I’m sure.
        All of this is on my comps list, btw, so I’m fully aware that traditional landmarks matter… I’m still puzzled by Hamailanen over White, precisely because of the landmark issue…

  3. Rediker over Brown? I can’t believe that one, I really can’t…I may have to ask for a recount! I went with Richter over Bailyn so I’m glad to see that one turning out that way. Seems like Cronon might have a rather clear shot to the Final 4 now, but I guess you never know…

  4. The Richter – Bailyn matchup strikes me as inexplicable (although no disrespect to what appears to be a very fine work). I was surprised to see William Cooper’s town loss by AS MUCH as it did. Also sorry to see Parlor Politics and the Transformation of VA go.

    • Just for a different take on the debate. I teach the Early American Survey and although I find a lot of interesting insights in Bailyn’s book I think Richter’s makes for a more interesting teaching tool. It may not be better research, but it has an impact on undergrads I doubt anything Bailyn wrote could have. That might explain some of the votes (I’m just joining the blog, so I don’t even know if some specific criteria have been agreed upon on what makes a winner). Taylor’s book deals with an admittedly much more narrow topic than Foner, who would be the go-to guy for non-specialists of the Antebellum like me; that could account for the large gap in popularity.

      • Thanks for the insight Yevan. I’m not familiar with the Richter book but it looks immensely interesting and I’ve added it to my list.

  5. Again, this set of results is precisely why I reject this bracketing exercise as a pointless waste of energy, having its roots in the pernicious sports gene. We need to know as many of these books as possible — not engage in some silly battle in which deserving books “lose” or “win.”

    Ask yourself one basic question: is this how you want to prepare for general exams? Or are your examiners going to expect that you know as many of these books as possible?

    • Richard, no one is suggesting this be taken as a guide to reading for oral exams (i.e., “don’t read the books that lose”). And it’s not meant to be dismissive of any of the books, all of which are in the brackets in the first place because people think they are important and, hence, nominated them. It is indeed a “silly battle,” not meant to be taken seriously in any way and in which people are voting subjectively based on which books they like more than others. Voting against a book does not imply that it has no value. We all like some books better than others; there’s nothing wrong with that. And, in some sense, don’t prize and award committees do the same thing, i.e., pit books against one another to determine a “winner?”

      • All this has done is gotten us to throw out a lot of books we like and discuss why we like them. I’ve been exposed to a lot of title I’d never heard of but will explore further, particularly regarding native Americans and women, so I’m appreciative of what has been acknowledged to be a frivolous exercise at the time it was created.

    • There are a few books on this list that I have not read yet (Comanche Empire being one of them, as this was published after my daughter was born and I became, VERY briefly, a SAHM); this “pointless waste of energy” has made me think that perhaps there are a few here that I should add to my already-too-long summer reading list.

  6. I’m disappointed to see McCoy lose. His is one of my favorite books ever. I’m pleased to see Richter win. Obviously I’m not the only one to prefer him to Bailyn. I wouldn’t have pegged Taylor as the Gonzaga of the contest. I’d have guessed Ulrich, if anyone, especially since she went against Isaac. I would never consider Foner’s book as being “early America,” so in that sense I consider it an unfair result. I don’t get how the antebellum period is part of early American history. That to me is an absurdity. I’m glad to see Lepore’s frankly overrated book go down.

    “Also Wood over Holton: some radical fans please rid us of Gordon.”

    Wood will lose to someone worthy of defeating him. Holton’s concatenation of half-baked progressive platitudes certainly is not.

    • Granted, sir. In all fairness, I haven’t even read Holton’s book! I liked his Unruly founders but that was one of my first reads in graduate school when I was still an impressionable foreign student, and a nice contrast with Wood’s Radicalism… so my beef is actually with other books entirely. Still, since this is a sport-like competition, I think bad faith is fair game and I’ll keep voting against Wood because I really dislike his stuff. Ulrich definitely sounds worthy of defeating Wood though.

        • I think Yevan is stating that voting against Wood and for a book he hasn’t read is in “bad faith” but since it’s all a silly (but fun and for me informative) parlor game he’s ok with doing it. I don’t think he’s saying Wood is acting in bad fair although he dislikes Wood’s stuff (my guess is he likes what Wood doesn’t more than he dislikes Wood’s own works though. When I talk to people about their dislike of him its always about his pooh-poohing of certain scholarship rather than any of Wood’s own work).

          • I was indeed talking of my bad faith rather than Wood’s… Charging a historian with bias is the most naive critique one could come up with and I’ve taught high school students to look for more analytical arguments… Successfully, too. As for scholars like Wood and Bailyn, since I could hardly recognize them in the street and haven’t hera the sound of their voice, it’s really about their books. Not my cup of tea, but I’m not denying their qualities.

            • Ah, right, I misunderstood that. Apologies for misrepresenting your position. I also didn’t vote if I hadn’t read either book, but I never really thought of it in terms of bad faith. I think once or twice if I’d read a book but not the other I still didn’t vote since I didn’t like the book I had read. Yes, it is all a popularity contest. But it would be interesting if the popularity contest winds up reinforcing the conventional wisdom.

  7. I am enjoying this more than anyone should. I specialize in Native American history and I’m sad to see Dowd’s Spirited Resistance “lose.” But regarding Hamalainen over White–if you’ve not read this, you should–White’s book will always be pivotal–but Comanche Empire goes beyond White both theoretically and methodologically. Richter and Merrell are also important “wins” for Native American and early American scholarship–but I doubt any of those will make it to the end. There I’m counting on Ulrich and Cronon. BTW if you’re still thinking Native American is peripheral to early America history . . .

    • Nice to know, Dawn. I read White three times in a semester (all three classes had it on the reading list– blargh!) and it’s good to see another favorable review of Hamalainen. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I’ve been out of the academic field for a while, so I missed out on a few publications for a few years.

      I was saddened that Axtell and Kupperman didn’t make the cut. Go, Cronon!

  8. Pingback: History Website Review: The Junto | Readings 804


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