The Week in Early American History

TWEAHThe biggest early-America news in popular culture this week may be the film adaptation of 12 Years a Slave, which will enter wide release in the US on November 1. In an interview with Terry Gross, director Steve McQueen says he wants Solomon Northup’s story to enter public consciousness the way Anne Frank’s diary has. David Blight discussed it with Terry Gross and recommended 12 Years a Slave as “a very good corrective” to ordinary Hollywood treatments of slavery. In the New Yorker, Annette Gordon-Reed uses the film to discuss some of the opportunities and problems slave narratives present to historians. At Grandland, Wesley Morris describes how the film “presents savagery in civil terms.”

At the New York Times, meanwhile, Kevin Clermont introduces a less familiar slave (and freedman’s) narrative, the autobiography of George Washington Field.

In other news of pop culture, a team of undergraduates at De Montfort University have put together an amazing 3D visualization of London around 1665. Could this become a teaching tool?

Speaking of teaching, Jonathan Marks argues at Inside Higher Ed that cheating should be seen as a problem of character, not just environment: “If we think of our students as subjects in our laboratory, to be manipulated and nudged toward desirable behaviors,” he writes, “how can we develop in them the qualities of character they will need to govern themselves in environments we do not control?”

Speaking of teaching and virtue, Harvard art historian Jennifer Roberts uses a painting by John Singleton Copley to discuss how she teaches the skill of patient observation in a wired twenty-first-century college classroom.

In other news of digital technology, Carol Berkin’s 2013 George Rogers Clark Lecture on women in the American Revolution, delivered on Friday, is now available to watch online.

With Thanksgiving approaching, we may soon see a fresh crop of editorials about socialism and private property in the Plymouth colony. In the Red Egg Review, Aaron Taylor argues that to see Plymouth as an object lesson in the failures of socialism is to miss the bigger picture of the Pilgrims’ belief in the common good.

Speaking of capitalism and sharing, Lee Skallerup Bessette suggests that academics should sometimes challenge the assumption that they will be willing to write for free.

Finally, the Omohundro Institute is soliciting brief remembrances of the late Edmund Morgan and Pauline Maier for the December issue of Uncommon Sense.


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