The Week in Early American History


I may be imagining things, but it seems that every time I take a turn with TWEAH there’s a major weather event going on outside my window. That may not be the case, but this edition comes to you with the first New England snow of the season. So if you’re stuck inside this morning, or just back from shoveling, take a few minutes to make a hot drink and see where The Junto may lead you.

We begin this week with more sad news for early Americanists. William Pencak, emeritus professor of history at Penn State University, died earlier this week following heart surgery. A stalwart of the McNeil Center in Philadelphia, author and editor of numerous books, editor of Pennsylvania History, and mentor to many, Bill’s loss will be keenly felt. George Boudreau remembered Bill in an essay for H-OIEAHC.

Also passing away this week was Charles Clark, who taught at the University of New Hampshire for 30 years and wrote a number of influential books and articles on early America (in particular print culture).

One of the great mysteries of early America is the fate of the Roanoke colony in the late 1580s. Researchers at Mercer University and the First Colony Foundation now think they may have found clues to where the colonists went between 1587 and 1590 by marrying some old-fashioned sleuthing on a map of the colony by John White with twenty-first-century archaeological tools.

You should bookmark the New York Times Disunion blog, add it to your Feedly, etc. But in case you haven’t, Richard Striner argues this week that Lincoln’s “10% Plan” offered in 1863—long taught as moderate and lenient—was actually audacious and radical.

Interest in slave narratives may be peaking this fall with the release of the film version of Twelve Years a Slave, which means that the recent discovery at Yale of the memoir of an African-American man imprisoned in New York City in the 1850s has attracted a great deal of attention.

Last week Northeastern University hosted a symposium on New Media and American Literary History, with a wide-ranging set of panels exploring how to bring digital methodologies to the study of American literature. If you missed it, catch up with a Storify of tweets from the conference.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure quite what to make of The Economist‘s perhaps ironic, possibly tongue-in-cheek look at the development of museums at Jamestown and Yorktown and how they reflect advances (or not, depending on your read of the tone of the piece) in historians’ understanding of the colonial and Revolutionary eras.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Perry Miller. Over at the S-USIH blog, Rivka Maizlish examines his legacy by expanding on the concept of “philosophical history,” a term coined by David Hollinger to describe his approach to American history.

You’ve missed it by mere hours, I’m afraid, but the item is newsworthy nonetheless. Yesterday, a recently discovered and rare survey hand-drawn by Thomas Jefferson was auctioned off in Charlottesville.

As it turns out, Benjamin Franklin did a pretty good job estimating crowd size at George Whitefield’s sermons in Philadelphia. New acoustical research indicates that his guess of about 30,000 potential hearers was on the money.

In other Franklin-related news, the Canadian post is featuring him as its founder on a stamp celebrating its 250th anniversary. (Then Canada Post announced it was ending home delivery. Fun times.)

And finally in Frankliniana, Meredith Hindley profiles the Republics of Letters project for Humanities magazine, of which a major part is to map the correspondence of old Ben.

Every year there is a re-enactment of Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776. A new documentary examines the fierce competition to portray the man himself.

Here at The Junto we take an expansive view of early America. I mean, really expansive. So here’s a story about a fossil found in Virginia that has been reclassified as one of the earliest known flower fossils in North America. And how, might you ask, was that fossil unearthed? Turns out it was discovered in 1864 when the Union army forced newly freed slaves to conduct digging work on a canal.

Before Oscar and Felix, there was Edmund and Thomas. Or at least that’s what many political philosophers want us to believe. Harvey Kaye reviews The Great Debate, a new book by Yuval Levin that argues that Burke and Paine were and are the two poles of the American political spectrum.

Alan Jacobs, writing at The Atlantic, wonders whether JSTOR has superseded faculty instruction to help students fine-tune their judgment of what makes for a good source.

Finally, if you’re going to be in Washington for the AHA conference, be sure to stop by the Bloggers and Twitterstorians Reception on Thursday night (Jan. 2)! No word yet on which Junto members may appear.

One response

  1. The Economist failed to comment on the hardly-quaint archeological museum at Historic Jamestown (at the site of the original settlement and down the road from the mentioned Jamestown Settlement).


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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: