The Week in Early American History


We have an abundance of links for your Sunday morning reading pleasure. Read on, fellow early Americanists:

On the heels of Thanksgiving, The New Republic reprinted a 1920 Charles Beard essay on the pilgrims with the headline: “The Best Hit Piece Against the Pilgrims of All Time.” I’m not sure it’s quite as relevant today as it might have been 97 years ago (or as TNR‘s editors seem to think), but entertaining nonetheless.

Among Beard’s several critiques of Puritan hypocrisy is the following charge: “When I think of Puritan ‘temperance’ I am reminded of cherry bounce and also the good old Jamaica rum which New England used to make in such quantities that it would float her mercantile marine.” For those interested, Imbibe has provided a Martha Washington-inspired recipe for the cocktail, promised to “keep for up to 2 months,” or just long enough to get through the holiday and job interview season, plus the start of a new semester. On a semi-related note, NPR‘s “All Things Considered” ran a story on the comeback of traditional cider.

On a more somber note, we join with other in regretting the passing and mourning the loss of Michael G. Kammen. Read the OAH’s obituary here and the Cornell Chronicle‘s here.

Historically-themed video-game enthusiasts who liked Assassin’s Creed III as much as our own Michael Hattem might be interested in this ACIII-inspired American flag, on sale now. And those of you with a slightly deeper pocket book will surely be disappointed to learn that you missed out on purchasing the first book printed in what is now the United States. The Bay Psalm Book (1640) fetched just over $14 million at a New York auction last week, setting a new record for a printed book.

Meanwhile, ran a fascinating story on “how stories went viral in antebellum America,” summarizing the findings of Northeastern University’s researchers survey of “41,829 old newspapers to examine how the old gray ladies facilitated the transfer of articles and ideas across America before the Civil War.” And over at the Columbia Journalism Review, Merrill Perlman provides a short and timely overview of the origins of the word “filibuster.” One last item for our readers whose research interests lay in the antebellum period: Be sure and read Lincoln Mullen’s review of Erskine Clarke’s By the Rivers of Water: A Nineteenth Century Atlantic Odyssey, in which he briefly compares it to Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams, concluding that while “historians of religion more naturally gravitate to Clarke than to Johnson, and we all have something to learn from Clarke’s craft,” they would do well “to account more fully for the pervasive influence of American capitalism.” Recommended.

Also at Religion in American History, Jonathan Den Hartog posted some thoughts on “teaching religious Loyalism” in his course on “The American Revolution and Early Republic” this semester. In other Revolutionary-era news, the New York Times‘ “Great Homes and Destinations” section alerted readers and world travelers to a full-scale and recently-renovated reproduction of Washington’s Mount Vernon located in a Paris suburb.

Not a lot of news on the digital humanities front this week, but this one item is well worth sharing: “What Jane Saw” is a virtual reconstruction of British artist Sir Joshua Reynolds’s exhibit as encountered by Jane Austen when she visited in 1813. The work of University of Texas Professor of English Janine Barchas, it offers “the modern visitor a historical reconstruction of that long-lost Regency blockbuster.”

You’ve likely seen by now the American Historical Association’s report on “The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study in Job Outcomes, Spring 2013.” If not, you’ll want to take a look. In other news from the world of academia, Salon reported on a bizarrely frustrating episode at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, in which three white students filed a racial discrimination complaint after their professor lectured on structural racism in an Introduction to Mass Communications class. With no apparent intended irony, the professor was then formally reprimanded “for creating a ‘hostile learning environment.'”

We’ll conclude this week with the American Spectator‘s response to the near-universal praise from professional historians for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Make what you will of the author’s claim that “historians once thought of their art as something distinct from propaganda—or from movies, for that matter—as they seem to do no longer.”  But please, I implore you, don’t read the comments.  If you dare, you might want to reach for the nearest glass of Cherry Bounce or cider first.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: