The Week in Early American History

TWEAHThe past two weeks have been busy ones in Early American History!

Firstly, the field marked the passing of Sacvan “Saki” Bercovitch, a prolific scholar of Early American Literature. Bercovitch’s work will no doubt be familiar to anyone whose work involves Puritans. We at The Junto send along our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Hamakom yenachem etchem b’toch she’ar avelai Tziyon Vi’yerushalayim

Race has been another important topic of discussion for early Americanists this week. One needs not to be a sports fan to know about the controversy over the Washington Redskins team name. BBC Magazine tackled the matter head-on. Junto readers should stay tuned for further illumination this coming week, with a guest post by NYU History PhD Candidate Mairin Odle.

The Ferguson and Garner Jury decisions have, unsurprisingly, fostered a number of discussions about slavery and racism towards African-Americans among Early Americanists. Harvard historian Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton, wrote a pair of articles on slavery and capitalism for The Atlantic, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Historians and other scholars also paid close attention to the language used in testimony by the witnesses in the Ferguson grand jury decisions. Following the decision, there were several articles about racial language, including “brute ideology” and the idea of the “thug,” which has historically stood in contrast to (white) “civilization.” The Vox used maps to explore how the Democratic Party, once a party of racists, became the party of the first African-American president.

In founding father and/or Revolutionary figure news, Paul Revere took a lesser-known ride to Portsmouth, NH. (Nope…still didn’t yell, “the British are coming!”) In Boston, crews worked to reveal the mystery of the time capsule, removed from the bronze lion of the Old State House this past year. John Jay College revealed plans for a new bronze statue, commemorating its namesake. The Massachusetts Historical Society released a new archival exhibit on the Boston Massacre on its blog. The Menokin Foundation will attempt to rehabilitate and preserve the home of Declaration of Independence signer, Francis Lightfoot Lee with structural glass. Founders Online announced completion of a collaborative project to make the correspondence of Washington, Jefferson, Adams (both John and Abigail), and Madison freely available online to the public. You too, can snoop through the founding fathers’s mail! We also learned how to make George Washington’s eggnog, and about the shoe shopping habits of his wife, Martha. The eggnog recipe process encourages makers to “taste frequently!”

In education and historic preservation, new concerns arose over North Carolina’s new history curriculum. Preservation Virginia announced that historian James Horn will assume the helm as the president of a new foundation entrusted with the management of Historic Downtown Jamestowne. (And speaking of Jamestown, it is now believed that John Smith coined the term “New England” on a 1616 map.) On the 300th anniversary of the birth of missionary George Whitefield, the Jonathan Edwards Center of Germany asked” “What would George Whitefield tweet?” It was also revealed this past week that The Junto’s own Joseph Adelman will assume leadership for “The Octo,” a brand new initiative by the Omohundro Institute to curate blog-based Early American history content.

In other professional issues, current historians James Grossman and Anthony Grafton explored the benefits of history education for undergraduate students. The Way of Improvement Leads Home has sent out a call for correspondence from AHA 2015.

Finally, we come to the holiday season. (Now that you’re all wiped out from shoe shopping and eggnog with the Washingtons.) On the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Liz Covart and Peter G. Rose discussed the Dutch origins of Santa Claus. Liz Covart was also a guest panelist on this month’s episode of “The JuntoCast,” which focused on popular protest in early America. The British Library explained how the Dutch gift-giving traditions came to Great Britain early in the nineteenth century.

Enjoy College Humor’s “The War of 1812: The Movie”:


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