The Week in Early American History


Last week’s edition of our weekly roundup opened with our collective condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Christopher Schmidt-Nowara (Tufts University), who passed away on June 27th. Unfortunately, the early American historical profession has lost an additional two stalwarts this week: Lois Green Carr, the noted historian of colonial Chesapeake society, died on June 28, 2015. She was 93.  And yesterday morning was met with the unfortunate announcement of Dallett Hemphill’s passing. In addition to her fine scholarship and responsibilities as editor of Early American Studies, Dr. Hemphill was a mentor, supporter, and friend to several junior scholars. Just two weeks ago, she authored a guest post here at The Junto on publishing journal articles. We’ve pinned that post at the top of our front page, and invite any who have not yet read it to do so. We extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of both Dr. Carr and Dr. Hemphill. 

On a more cheerful note, Junto colleague Jessica Parr authored a short piece at History News Network in support of her recent book. And Junto guest Vaughn Scribner’s recent post on John Smith’s green-haired mermaid got a shout-out from Smithsonian.

As is to be expected, the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution were much discussed around the web this week: In another piece from Smithsonian: Jefferson’s tombstone monument gets a renovation of sorts. Staff at the New-York Historical Society, meanwhile, discuss important moments in New York City during the American Revolution at AM New York; Bruce Myren Studio showcases a gallery of the Washington Elm in Boston; Michael Young, President of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America discusses the recent reenactment of the Hermione’s voyage with Junto friend, Liz Covart; and the latest post featured over at Talking Points Memo‘s recently-launched Primary Source column comes from Ari Kelman and looks at the centennial celebration of American independence on July 4, 1876.  But the really hard-hitting analysis of Independence Day comes from The Movie Network, who laments the lack of good Revolutionary War films in the recent past, and is forced to conclude that “The Patriot is the closest we have come in the last 15 years to seeing a true big screen blockbuster about American independence, on the Fourth of July or any other holiday.” Yikes. Meanwhile, the free daily English paper, Metro, mocked Americans’ historical ignorance of Independence Day, and included this gem: “When asked what Independence Day commemorates, one woman suggested victory in the Civil War.” Laugh all you want, Metro, but little did you (or she?) know that she was wading into an intense and ongoing historiographical debate. Tom Cutterham and Chris Minty could not be reached for comment.

In other news: Modern artists draw inspiration from 18th century abolitionist diagrams; Julia O’Connell Davidson and Joel Quirk argue that race is often missing from modern discussions of slavery; and Broadway actors talk about portraying slaves and slave traders in a new John Newton-themed musical. Those of you reading this while eating leftovers from yesterday’s barbecue will also want to read Michael W. Twitty’s excellent writeup in The Guardian, which concludes with this line: “Barbecue is laced with the aspiration of freedom, but it was seasoned and flavored by the people who could not enjoy any freedom on Independence Day for almost a century.”

Meanwhile, scholars of religious history will be interested to know that Lambeth Palace Library has a project underway to produce new online descriptions of the early Library catalog, and that two Bay Psalm books are now on view at the Library of Congress.

And an assortment of random links to wrap things up: the Museum of American History reopened its newly-renovated west wing, which now includes “the world’s largest American flag made out of LEGOs.” Tim Sherratt’s keynote speech on the politics of digital history from DH2015, the annual conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations included this provocative line: “Access can never simply be given, at some level it has to be taken.” And, over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Paul Dickens reflects on the challenges of writing for a popular audience.


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