The Week in Early American History

TWEAHConstitution Day Edition.

How did you celebrate Constitution Day on Wednesday? If you’re a politician on Capitol Hill, and didn’t answer either “by showing off my pocket-sized edition” or “standing near an oversized facsimile of my favorite amendment with text selectively crossed out to illustrate the imagined dangers posed by my political opponents,” then shame on you. Speaking of those pocket-sized editions, the Washington Post profiled Zeldon Nelson, the Idaho farmer and chief executive of the National Center for Constitutional Studies who sells them for just over a dollar a piece.

In an additional early American history-related news item from Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives passed a resolution authorizing the construction of “a memorial to be built [in Washington, D.C.] in memory of the more than 5,000 African Americans who fought in the American Revolution.”

When I first moved to Williamsburg five years ago, I was nearly involved in an accident while driving along VA-199, as I strained my neck to observe a strange sight: gigantic busts of United States presidents. One year later, Presidents Park closed, unable to attract enough visitors. I wondered what became of those statues–a question answered this week by the good folks at the Virginian-Pilot. Howard Hankins, the man tasked with removing and destroying the busts (each measuring between 16 and 20 feet in height and weighing between 7500 and 26,000 pounds), opted to keep them instead on his property in Croaker.

As you’ve surely heard, Scottish voters opted against independence on Friday’s historic vote, choosing to remain part of the United Kingdom. The day before the vote, The Guardian detailed “ten ways the Scotland referendum is like the American revolution and three ways it isn’t.” My favorite way it isn’t? “They are voting on it instead of having a war.” No kidding.

The War of 1812 remains newsworthy, and Maryland’s football team (who did their best to honor the legacy of the conflict by nearly fighting their opponent to a draw, before losing on a last-second field goal to West Virginia), isn’t the only one to thank. The state’s governor and presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley is, according to the Daily Beast, “obsessed” with the conflict. The Baltimore Police Department apparently feels differently; last Sunday night they pulled the plug on a War of 1812 Rock Opera at the Hampstead Hill Festival when the event ran 10 minutes later than scheduled. Jimmy McNulty was unavailable for comment.

One final War of 1812-related item: Ozy featured a fascinating look at the 1859 killing of Francis Scott Key’s only son, Philip Barton Key.

In the least surprising news of the week, some folks in South Carolina have joined others in protesting the College Board’s A.P. U.S. history course, as covered here. They would do well to read J.L. Bell’s five-part series on the topic at Boston 1775 (see here, here, here, here, and here). The A.V. Club‘s “Wiki Wormhole” took as its subject this week Benjamin Franklin.

In other news, Public Books posted Frederick Cooper’s lengthy a detailed review of Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (translated from the German by Patrick Camiller), and Greg Miller, writing in Wired, profiled the team of researchers led by “independent map scholar” Chet Van Duzer using multispectral imaging to uncover the “hidden” (read: badly faded to the point of illegibility) text on the 1491 map used by Christopher Columbus. And Sean Wilentz reviews The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and The Letters of C. Vann Woodward in The New Republic, asking “Why Has the American Literary Canon Admitted So Few Historians?”

And finally, a few academic links to wrap things up: HASTAC announced an interactive forum on the subject of “What is a Dissertation? New Models, New Methods, New Media.” Details for the October 10 event are available here. Over at Inside Higher Ed‘s Gradhacker, Natascha Chtena recommends some reading for current and future TAs.  The Chronicle of Higher Education examines a new English PhD program at Georgetown that “has career preparation at its core” and the criticism it has drawn. And lastly, at the recently-revamped Teaching United States History, Tara Strauch introduces a teaching experiment featuring tea and coffee aimed at pedagogically “bringing drama” to her upper-level American Revolution class.

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