The Week in Early American History

TWEAHAfter a few quiet weeks in early American history, we’re back with your breaking headlines. To the links!

The New York Times profiled the leaders of a massive scavenger hunt to save congregational records for digitization and preservation. Columbia University scientists officially  dated a Philadelphia-built schooner, found four years ago at the World Trade Center site, to 1773. University of Virginia masons working on the renovation of Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda have discovered debris from the 1895 fire inside a wall cavity, which they will match up with 1880s site photographs to understand the dome’s construction and appearance. In economic history, there’s new work to read on New England’s practice of “warning out” strangers and travelers with the potential for poverty, and Forbes has an interesting interview with Mark Valeri on “Puritans vs. Capitalism.

On the campus front: Does the Ivy League manufacture “zombies,” as William Deresiewicz argues? Chris Lehmann and  Kevin Carey offer a few replies on the subject of meritocracy and the elite-school experience. Inside Higher Ed posits an alternative to the “ABD” label. On a lighter note, check out some museum cat-alogers’ fun here.

Over at The Point, a closer look at the life’s work of David Brion Davis illustrates how a historian brings personal experience to bear on a topic of study: “Informed by his experiences in the army and his intellectual encounter with Niebuhr, Davis grew attuned to the ways people try to become more than human by treating others as less than human. Niebuhr believed this to be a sin; and Davis has examined how modern society came to reject different sinful acts—homicide, enslavement—as possible paths to transcendence.”

Elsewhere, Gregory O’Malley explains what led to his investigation of the intercolonial slave trade of British North America: “To the extent that most Americans consider slavery at all, the focus is on the Civil War as a war that ended slavery or on the Underground Railroad as a triumph over slavery. Those histories are of course important, but it’s also vital to wrestle with the painful reality that slavery worked—that certain segments of American societies profited mightily from their exploitation of enslaved people.”

Gordon S. Wood weighed in on Danielle Allen’s new interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, calling it a “strange and remarkable book” and a “tour de force of close textual analysis,” while James M. McPherson reviewed Michael C.C. Adams’ Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War, labeling it “an extended antiwar sermon.” Robert McConnell offers a  new biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, painting a picture of the “modern Attila” and his “curious blind spots,” reviewed here. If you’re more in the mood for a movie, check out this teaser trailer for a Terrence Malick-produced indie on Lincoln’s childhood. Finally, it looks like AMC has found its leading man for “We Hate Paul Revere,” a show that follows a certain “pompous and self-important” revolutionary… airing 2015.


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