Junto March Madness: Sweet Sixteen

Fortunately, the law firm of Prilo & Foal have given us the “go ahead” to move forward with our tournament, so onward and upward!

Below you will find updated brackets, polling for the final sixteen teams books, followed by some discussion questions. Voting closes at midnight ET. Winners are announced tomorrow, and the Elite Eight takes place on Thursday.


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1. Edumund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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1.William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England

13. Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage, Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore

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6. Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846

10. Marcus Rediker, The Slave Ship: A Human History


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9. Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War

4. Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire

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6. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Slave Market

2. Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America


Besides the typical two questions (What is the most intriguing matchup? What is the most likely “upset”?), here are a few more “tournament style” questions:

  1. Of the three remaining #1 seeds, which is most likely to not make it to the Final Four?
  2. What lower seed has a chance to not only make it through this round, but make it to the Final Four?

And a few more serious questions:

  1. How do we account for the poor performance of neo-Progressive works?
  2. Why do you think Taylor and Bailyn were upset?
  3. What does the bias towards classics tell us about the profession? (Or, at least, the portion of the profession that reads this blog.)

5 responses

  1. I’ll leave your serious questions to serious people. As for the fun:

    1. I see Morgan as the most vulnerable 1 seed. AS/AF is a classic, but so are both White Over Black and Pursuits of Happiness. Morgan vs. Greene or Morgan vs. Jordan in the Elite Eight? The favorite would not be favored by very much, if at all.

    2. As for the low seed, keep an eye on Eric Foner. Tough match-up now against Pekka Hamalainen, but if he makes it through there, it sets up a matchup with a like-minded book (at least as much as this sort of tournament allows). And, with the books beginning to stand in as metonyms for their authors, who’d count out Foner against Berlin or Walter Johnson?

    Then of course there’s Seth Rockman, who does not seem content with (wait for it…) just scraping by in this tournament. This year’s George Mason, VCU, or Wichita State? We’ll have to wait and see.

  2. In last week’s podcast, there was a slight disagreement about what exactly constituted a “classic” with Michael noting a lack of pre-1960 works. There exists a bias within our fun little exercise which even with its admittedly small sample size is indicative of the profession as a whole.

    Up until the 1960s, the reigning paradigmatic interests of professional historians as reflected by historical journals and book publishers were heavily represented toward histories of institutions and politics. With the explosion of the profession post GI Bill, intellectual, social, and religious history became supreme. In the 1970s, economic history and qaulitative econometric studies were the vogue.

    Since the 1980s, the profession has taken a “cultural turn” with an emphasis on close textual, racial, gendered examinations of once marginalized peoples. We live in this world. Hence the bias toward works like Diary of a MidWife, William Cooper’s Town, Death of a Notary, etc. We, meaning the profession, are really good at this, but we are not so good at producing works describing economies, organizations, networks, etc. Read any good works on the origins and effects of the imperial Navigation Acts lately? Why didn’t anyone nominate Menard and McCusker’s Economy of British North America?

    As for the bias toward the other classics, I think it is a function of the socialization aspects of graduate history training and the replication of established value systems.

    I hope I haven’t sucked the fun out of this exercise. I personally like frivolity and hope that learning is never reduced to drudgery, but this exercise along with some self reflection could prove useful to furthering the profession. (Nothing like a Friday session at the pub with adult beverages to get the creative juices flowing.)

    My upset of a number one is Scraping By over Changes in the Land. Was it “capitalism” that did in the N.E. Native Americans or guns and germs?

  3. “As for the bias toward the other classics, I think it is a function of the socialization aspects of graduate history training and the replication of established value systems.”

    Spot on, Brian.

  4. I’m ready to predict a Wood victory in a Hamalainen v Wood final. The success of Native American history seems fairly notable to me, considering the strength of classics we’ve noted, and that’s nice to see. Predicting Hamalainen for the final reflects that, plus Oxford pride. As for Wood, I was a bit down on Creation before, but the fact is that it can work as a progressive book in ideological clothing, if you want to read it that way (just imagine if Wood’s career had gone that way, it would have been great).

    • I agree with Wood’s Creation being “a progressive book in ideological clothing” at one level. Neo-Progressives criticize his work, but he essentially makes the same argument as they do about the Constitution empowering the elite at the expense of “the people” (he’s just is not quite as cynical about their motivation).


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