Junto March Madness: Final Four Results

Once again, many thanks to all who voted–each matchup received around 180 votes. The winners are below. Voting for the championship will take place Wednesday.


Edumund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom 65%

Daniel Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America 35%


William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England 54%

Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Slave Market 46%

4 responses

  1. I am certainly not surprised by this result but I did have a very outside hope that Richter might pull off the monumental Wichita State over Louisville upset. Morgan is certainly a classic of classics and had a huge hand in starting the social history movement and changing the focus of Early America studies to Virginia from Massachusetts. But as an early early Americanist, Morgan is much less relevant for me – except as a useful framing mechanism – than Richter. The idea of Bacon’s Rebellion as THE turning point in race relations in Virginia and the movement toward slavery from indentured servitude is not borne out by the numbers as John Coombs’s dissertation and soon-to-be-published book (and my hopefully soon-to-be-published dissertation) show.

    I would like to pose a question to my “late-early” Americanist colleagues since I am not near as well versed in your historiography – is Morgan’s idea that slavery and freedom arose together in the run-up to the Revolution still a relevant and accepted way of characterizing the thoughts of the Founders?

    I hope this doesn’t leave anyone thinking I don’t absolutely love Morgan’s book but it is certainly a creature of its time, I think. And I am now VERY intrigued to see one of the founders of social history go up against one of the founders of environmental history! It should be a good one!

  2. I wonder if we’re not overlooking a basic factor in Morgan’s popularity. It’s not only a great history, but I think a very strong case could be made that it is the greatest book of all sixty-four entries. The book stuff matters: the grace and fluency of its writing, the power of its language, the strength and durability of its narrative structure. I think a lot of its appeal has to do with the book stuff. Personally, I’m of the belief that all great histories must also be great books. So I’m quite delighted Morgan has done so well. He’s earned it.

    • Undoubtedly, it is a wonderful work of prose, which sets it up, I think, in rather stark contrast to Changes in the Land, which for all its wonderfulness as a work of history, is maybe not the most well-written of the bunch? It’s certainly no Nature’s Metropolis, that’s for sure.

  3. Not only is Morgan’s book wonderfully written, its arguments actually hold up very well when they are not reduced to a straw man as it so commonly is. Despite what others say about him, Morgan never claims that Bacon’s Rebellion was THE turning point from indentured servitude to slavery. It is the narrative but not analytical turning point in his book. He explicitly states that the switch to slavery was driven by a variety of economic factors, NOT a conscious effort to promote racial solidarity. He says that was the effect, but that no one realized what they were doing at the time.


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