The Week in Early American History


Happy New Year, dear readers! Hope you had a merry Christmas. Did you watch the ball drop in Times Square? The technology dates back to the early 19th Century, when the Royal Navy ruled the waves and captains needed a way to periodically recalibrate their ships’ chronometers. In the New Netherlands, Dutch colonists spent New Year’s Day going over to each other’s houses for nieuwjaarskoeken. We here at The Junto, meanwhile, have been busy collecting all the links of note you may have missed over the holidays.

If your New Year’s resolution is to make a permanent change in your life, how about a tattoo? William Conway, 21, must have known something about the meaning of life, as these 1863 naval records indicate: he had “42” tattooed on his left arm. Conway might well have shared “the anxieties that 19th-century young people poured into their New Year’s diary entries.” After all, twenty-somethings back then faced economic turbulence, major demographic shifts, and changing social mores. Love and jobs were hard to find; anxiety was commonplace. Remind you of any other time? Here in the new millennium, colleges are clamping down on faculty twitter use, but that’s okay because there are fewer and fewer faculty jobs in history anyway. As Edgar Allan Poe apparently put it, perhaps thinking of the academic job market: “Terror is not of Germany, but of the soul.” There is an exhibition on Poe at New York’s Morgan Library until the 26th of January.

Sticking to terror, there’s a new series on the Salem witch trials coming to TV this spring. Variety has a trailer. Meanwhile, The Smithsonian profiles the 18th-century artist Patience Wright, the Madame Tussaud of the American Colonies. When it comes to making money, Thomas Crane’s paper milling company has been doing just that for seven generations, since first gaining a commission to print currency “issued in defence of American Liberty.” It’s also been an interesting Christmas in the archives. New finds among British government records have shed light on Georgia during the Revolutionary War; Mitch Fraas looked forward to the AHA 2014 Annual Meeting by discussing the problems and possibilities of mapping archival sources; and, of course, our very own Michael Hattem hit the national press once again, by identifying a newly-uncovered draft of the Continental Congress’s 1775 “Letter to the Inhabitants of Great-Britain.”

Finally, in our usual dose of academia-related links, there’s been a bit of a dust-up over job-market rage and the problem of tenured privilege which is explored in a polemical post at The Professor Is In. Worth reading along with this thoughtful response to the suggestions therein. There’s a small dose of optimism in this UK-based advice on “How to Get a(n academic) Job,” and those seeking publicity for their big dissertation ideas should check out the new project over at the Chronicle, “The Leading Edge.” The Chronicle also participated in the internet coverage of AHA 2014 Annual Meeting this week with a piece on “How to Survive Your First Years of Teaching.” Also from the AHA conference, you can find Rob Townshend’s presentation on “Career Paths for History PhDs” on Slideshare and a quantification of #AHA2014 on Twitter at the History News Network. Also, a UK graduate student reflects on her less-than-positive experience in academic blogging in The Guardian. That’s all from me, except to ask you this one question: What’s your early-Americanist New Year’s Resolution? Answer in the comments!

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