The Week in Early American History


Let’s kick another weekly roundup of early American history links off with this fascinating and fun look at Revolutionary-era pronunciations of the word “Huzza(h)!” over at Journal of the American Revolution (hint: it rhymes with “fray”). Continuing with the general theme of historical language and pronunciation, Sam Sack’s New Yorker review of Ben Tarnoff’s newly-released, The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers who Reinvented American Literature, includes some reflections on Twain’s use of “unrefined idiomatic English” and “how America learned to hear itself talk.” 

Over at the Berkeley Blog, Mark Peterson draws on “the lessons of 1776” in considering the Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon v. FEC decision. Peterson concludes that “we must amend the Constitution to clearly separate the interests of money from those of the people through direct public financing of campaigns.” Meanwhile, Boston Globe correspondent Ted Widmer takes a broadly similar approach to the War of 1812, reflecting on the oft-forgotten war’s lessons for America today. The key takeaway: “History becomes more interesting when it’s hard. The War of 1812 deserves a bicentennial—not because of its triumphs, but because it sheds light on the complexity of conflict, and the way that wars metastasize as they drag on.” Shifting from 1776 to 1812 and finally to 1865, Joel Achenbach writes in the Washington Post on the life and forgotten legacy of Ulysses S. Grant.

In digital history news, the Walters Art Museum announced that it “has successfully catalogued and digitized more than 600 American paintings, drawings and portrait miniatures for the museum’s online collection.”

For those avid and/or critical viewers of AMC’s new series Turn, did you know that there is an entire blog devoted to providing “historically-accurate information and analysis” of the series? Check out the recent post on the portrayal of interrogation techniques and prisoner treatment. And, in case you missed it, check out our own Roy Rogers’ thoughts on the show posted earlier this week. Also in the world of entertainment and history, Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith have signed on to star in the film adaptation of James McBride’s National Book Award-winning novel, The Good Lord Bird, a humorous look at the events leading up to the 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry. One last media-related item to share: John Fea has started posting interesting audio clips from the Library of Congress’s collection, including this 1916 song, “How could Washington be a married man (and never tell a lie).”

Over at Overland, Rowan Cahill looks back at Jesse Lemisch’s (in)famous 1969 AHA paper, “Present-Mindedness Revisited: Anti-Radicalism as a Goal of American Historical Writing Since World War II.”

The Montgomery Advertiser reports on the recent symposium held in honor of the late historian and former NEH chairman Sheldon Hackney, and the New York Times on the latest class of fellows elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences includes, among others, Jill Lepore and Peter Onuf.

In this week’s higher ed-related news, Rebecca Schuman points out in a widely-shared column the numerous and severe problems with anonymous student evaluations of teachers and courses, while Leonard Cassuto writes at the Chronicle on time to degree for humanities PhDs, concluding that “if we truly support the cause of reducing time to degree, then hiring talented early finishers is the only decisive way to confer that support.” Also at the Chronicle, Brian Coxall considers “how to overcome what scares us about out online identities.” The student newspaper at Brown University, The Brown Daily Herald, covers a secret report on a visible allegation of plagiarism involving a faculty member, and last but not least, Nicholas Lemann, Dean Emeritus of the Columbia School of Journalism, explores the challenge for 20th-century research universities to justify themselves in a 21st-century education culture increasingly defined by pragmatism.

See something we missed? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading!


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