The Week in Early American History


Hello and welcome to another exciting week in early American history!

This week Alan Taylor joined the likes of Bernard Bailyn, Robert Caro, and David McCullough on the list of two-time Pulitzer Prize winners for his book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, reviewed by our own Roy Rogers last September.

Americans also paid their taxes this week—but not without continuing the rich historical tradition of tax protest. Here in the UK, last weekend was the London Marathon, but in the U.S., “watching people walk” was once apparently America’s favorite spectator sport, while tomorrow’s Boston Marathon has, at least according to The Atlantic, “come to embody our long march towards greater freedom.”

“George Shoemaker knew it was time to run.” So opens Christopher F. Jones’ article on the transition to coal power in nineteenth-century Pennsylvania. And Civil War buffs are running out of patience as “promoters of memorabilia, tourism, re-enactments say public seems apathetic; relics aren’t selling” in spite of the long-awaited sesquicentennial. All the historical scholarship on the Civil War doesn’t seem to have had much impact on former senator Jim DeMint, who declared in publicity for his new book that “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.” Meanwhile, yesterday marked another anniversary: of the “shot heard ’round the world” at the battle of Lexington and Concord. But just how varied were the uniforms of revolutionary soldiers?—some of which were worn by Jewish veterans of the revolution now interred at the Mikvah Israel Cemetry in Philadelphia.

In your weekly dose of professional and technical news, Readex will soon be easier to read, or at least search. A SHEAR panel at the recent OAH annual meeting sparked some reflection on teaching the XYZ affair. There were further additions to the roll-call of blog posts on the question, “Is Blogging Scholarship?” There were also new remembrances of southern historian Stephanie Camp. The Illinois Programme for Research in the Humanities shared a letter taking on anonymous peer review, and The Chronicle discussed the new academic celebrity. The New York Times may also have said something about “looking for America beyond its borders,” but I wouldn’t know because the content is paywalled, as is this reconsideration of the Civil War death toll.

That’s about all for this week, folks, but I leave you with news that the Civil War gunship Planter, commandeered by the 23-year-old enslaved man Robert Smalls and other African-American crew members in Charleston harbour, may have been discovered by archaeologists this week. Smalls became the captain of the ship when he joined up with the Union blockade in 1862, but the ship was eventually lost in 1876. “Smalls went on to serve five terms in Congress.” Now that sounds like something worth re-enacting.

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