A year ago today, I introduced the world to The Junto.
Since then, my admittedly lofty goals of success have been dramatically achieved by our cast of bloggers. I aimed to gather some of the brightest young minds in the field, and I have been pleased with the consistent quality and quantity of posts throughout the year. We have had posts nearly every weekday, along with our popular “This Week in Early American History” roundup every Sunday, which totaled 292 posts for the year. It would be impossible and unfair to highlight the “best” posts because there have been so many quality posts that, quite frankly, probably belong in a more professional setting than a blog. Some of our most popular include Michael Hattem’s overview of Assassin’s Creed III (thanks, Reddit!), the multi-author roundtable on Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams, Rachel Herrmann’s response to new(!) cannibalism developments, and Matt Karp’s reviews of Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave. And our academia-related posts have also been highly popular, as the response to posts on digital workflow and creating a CV attest. And who can forget our epic March Madness Tournament? Indeed, the quality of the content is reflected in the fact that The Junto has been featured in the American Historical Association’s “What We’re Reading” seven times.
But merely spitting words into the internet is not enough—we need an audience. And fortunately, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response from our readers. The blog has received over a quarter-million views, which comes out to nearly 23,000 per month and 900 per day. (While a majority of our readers are in the United States, we also have a sizeable audience in Britain, Canada, Germany, and Australia.) Our facebook community nears 750 “likes,” and our twitter account has over 1,000 “followers.” Reader engagement is what keeps our community vibrant, and the 1,683 comments left on the blog (nearly 6 per post) are, I’d argue, some of the most substantive in the academic blog community. (For an example, just look at the excellent discussion on yesterday’s post about teaching the 18th century.) I hoped that this blog could serve as a digital gathering place for wide-ranging discussions, and I am quite happy with the results.
Since academic blogging is still a young venue, we are trying out new features. I’ve been especially pleased with our several week-long series, including roundtables on The New New Political History, the legacy of Edmund Morgan, the work of Pauline Maier, and multi-part reviews of The Abolitionists documentary. Our interviews with established scholars have also proven enormously helpful, including those with James Merrell, Brett Rushforth, and Edwin Burrows, with another from Carol Berkin coming next week. We have done a number of book reviews, and may have recently found our sweetspot with the book review/interview combination we did with Edward Andrews. A project that was in discussion from the beginning but didn’t pick up steam until summer was “The JuntoCast,” a monthly podcast with Junto members discussing topics related to early American history. Six episodes have already been released with almost five thousand downloads between them, and two more are currently in production; we hope that podcasts will be an integral part of our blog’s identity into the future.
As you can tell, while we are happy with what we have accomplished, we are still experimenting. We hope to develop these, and a number of other, approaches over the next few years, and would love to hear feedback on what you think works better than others. So on this, our blog’s first birthday, your present to us can be advice on where to go from here: Do you like the week-long roundtables? The two-part book reviews? The interviews? What is something that we haven’t yet done, but you’d love to see tried?
Before closing up the post and opening for comments, and though many people deserve credit for this blog’s success, particular thanks are due to Michael Hattem. Not only has he proven our most consistent blogger and commenter, and his posts on video games, digital resources, Gordon Wood, Jeffersongate, and the Tea Party are among the blog’s most popular, he has provided three more crucial contributions: he is our technical guru (this blog’s structure is all thanks to him), he has spearheaded our podcast (which takes hours of editing work), and he updates many of the features found under our “Resources” tab. So while he maintains a silly attachment to Arsenal’s football team, he deserves all of our appreciation and respect.
So, let’s hear it. What did you like from the first year? What did you not like? What do you want to see more of? What are other ways we can improve?
I’d like to propose a motion to change the official Junto birthday cake flavor from chocolate to Independence Cake, à la Amelia Simmons (“Twenty pound flour, 15 pound sugar, 10 pound butter, 4 dozen eggs, one quart wine, 1 quart brandy, 1 ounce nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, of each 3 ounces, two pound citron, currants and raisins 5 pound each, 1 quart yeast; when baked, frost with loaf sugar; dress with box and gold leaf”). But I might be biased.
As you seem to be quite interdisciplinary, ‘cross-cultural’ and innovative, perhaps you ought to reach out consciously to scholars in US history living and writing in other countires. Some tendency in this direction has begun to show up in the OIEAHC’s attitude in the last few years (see the articles in the long discussion session in the Oct. ’13 issue of the Quarterly as well as the stellar conferences held in Africa in recent years).
Another initiative – which held biennial symposia for 30 years and published 6 “Quaderno”s published in Italy (on-line at http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/quaderno) and 2 vols (the second still in process of publication in France)is the Milan Group (after 2003, Milan-Montellier Group). Based in Milan, Italy, itsEuropean co-ordinator was a scholar teaching in Tours and its US coordinators have included Ira Berlin, Ronald Hoffman and Robert Gross. Beginning with 1988 (whose subsequent “Quaderno” was distributed by the organizers to the 400 participants in the official conference organized in Paris for the bicentennial celebrations of their revolution in 1989) the Milan Group dedicated four interdisciplinary symposia to themes regarding the period from about 1760- 1840/50 , focusing on various themes and including articles by French, German, Italian , British and American scholars; each available in the “Quaderno”s 2-5. The Milan Group was the theme of an OAH Roundtable in 2001. Among active ‘Groupies’, through the years, whose names may be familiar to you: Alan Taylor, Rhys Isaac, David Waldstreicher, David Brion Davis,Linda Kerber, David Grimsted, Mechal Sobel, Greg Nobles, Alfred Young. There are a goodly number of other members, writing in various languages, whose work is at comparable levels of interest with whom you might care to dialogue. As an international network of friends and colleagues we have fostered exchange and support of students informally over the years.
Loretta, thank you for such an excellent suggestion. I think engaging the international community of early Americanists more is an excellent suggestion. We have done so this past year by having two guest posts from Lauric Henneton, the Vice-President of Réseau pour le Développement Européen de l’Histoire de la Jeune Amérique, including one that talked about the experience of doing early American history in the Old World and how important developing a community of European-based early Americanists is to their efforts. See: https://earlyamericanists.com/2013/06/12/good-newes-from-ye-olde-world/
I enjoy this blog very much. It is on my daily reading list. I also connect various posts to our historical society at the American Public University System. As a instructor of the American History to 1865 survey I have found the posts on that subject to be informative. It seems we all agree that we don’t have enough time in the semester to cover everything that we need to. I also enjoyed the March Madness tourney very, very much.
Thanks and I look forward to another year of academic blogging!
I am aware of the French organization you mention . Rossignol came to one of the Milan Group Symposia and ira Berlin is, of course, not only an ex Group US coordinator, but an old friend. The French organization has made a different, institutional, choice than ours – with all the advantages and drawbacks that such a choice entails [and of which you yourselves are, of course, aware, and reflect in your choice of name].
We, like you, were/are a group of ‘like minds’ – and, I would venture after 30 years – like ethical frame of mind ( something more important than our present academic ambience usually feels comfortable with). We had an institutional ‘connection’ ( necessary to seek public funds for the Symposia) but never set up a ‘scientific committee’ despite many pressures to do so. No one ever gave a paper at a Symposium because ‘it was opportune’ to have them (and in the early years pressure both from US cultural services in Europe andfrom various institutional sites within our strongly public European university structures were more than present). Without Internet, we did all our out-reach work by mail and by personal contact. In a period in which the lines between ’empirical’ and ‘Marxist’ scholars were often so rigid that members of the two approaches were never able to discuss without feeling they had to ‘defend their corner’, the Milan group held a symposium on the American and French revolutions with scholars from the ‘Annales'(Roche, Vovelle, among others) and, among the Americans, Ronald Hoffman, as well as some Italian, French, German and British – in part still graduate students (See “Quaderno 2″,”TheLanguages of Revolution” ). Membership in formal organizations may also include some people who would be ‘junto-minded’- but my instinct is that you would have to go to some of their conferences and bend an ear to what we here on the continent call ‘corridor murmurs’ or, perhaps ‘breakfast table or lunchroom conversation
The Internet is a great innovation, but it is also Sooo laaarge that only lucky chance nets the really interesting fish. i found you through the blog ‘1775’ and I found that blog through the ‘Boston Globe’…..where I was looking for ‘local news’ sites.
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