The Week in Early American History


Here are your early American history headlines…

Britain’s Foreign Office opens up a hidden cache of slave trade documents (roughly 1.2 million files’ worth), and Philadelphia tourist officials inform us that Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette are now friends on Facebook. NEH appraises work on “New Money in New Spain” and follows the generous paper trail of one of America’s first families. Lasers have revealed New England’s lost agropolis; scholars hope the technique will rejuvenate study of cultural frontiers, boundary changes, and shifts in colonial population. With Oscars on the horizon, popular discussion of the film “12 Years a Slave” continues to yield fresh insights on how we depict the savagery of slavery. Also this week:  Questions of descent from Thomas Jefferson lingered, while Sundance celebrities posed for tintype and the New York Society Library unveiled an amazing collection of John Sharp’s theological books.

Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, work on America’s 19th-century wine culture reminds us of an overlooked sector of national growth: “Claiming a kind of passive, utilitarian, and benevolent role in ‘frontier’ landscapes and society, viticulture and fruit growing more generally functioned to deny the realities of land speculation, agricultural imperialism, and labor that were key ingredients in not only Cincinnati, but New York state, California, and other fruit-growing regions in the 19th century. Grape growers’ myths naturalized claims to land for wine cultivation and legitimated national expansion then and today.” On a different note, ponder the “The Racially Fraught History of the American Beard” at The Atlantic. If legal history is more your focus, brush up on your 18th-century copyright. For the archivally adventurous, learn how cataloguers decode inscriptions, here.

On the pedagogy front, read one take on “Improving the Past” or see NBC’s view of the campus class divide, and how it affects adjuncts. Track where Ph.D.’s have placed recently, and why scholarly editors are often on the “front lines of innovation” in the field. After all that, if you’re more interested in how to succeed in business with a history degree, then check out the Versatile Ph.D.’s related conversation series. Finally, congratulations to all the scholars who made the shortlist for the 2013 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History.


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