Tailoring Lectures and Discussions to Students: Teaching Religion and Reform in Early America

This summer, I’m teaching a small section of United States History to 1877. Meeting four days each week for an hour and fifteen minutes, we cover over the course of seven weeks what is typically covered in shorter meetings three days/week over a normal fifteen week semester. This is my first time doing so, and it’s forced me to rewrite and combine some plans for each day’s meeting, and in some cases, to scrap lecture material normally used. Continue reading

#VastEarlyAmerica(n) Girl Doll Books: Reflections of a Father and Historian

When Sara first pitched the idea of The Junto hosting a roundtable dedicated to children’s and young adult fiction focused on early America, I was excited. But unlike others, I was excited not because Johnny Tremain was my favorite childhood read or because my own trajectory toward becoming a historian could be traced to the Dear America series or the young adult fiction of Ann Rinaldi. While I vaguely remember reading Johnny Tremain in elementary school, along with other books of early American historical fiction during my childhood and teenage years, my own interest in history was a later development in life. My excitement about this proposed roundtable came rather because I’m a father of three young children who love to read and be read to, and because I’m adamant about ensuring that they’re raised as historically-aware and -literate individuals. Continue reading

Q&A: Spencer McBride, author of Pulpit and Nation

Following up on Jonathan Wilson’s review of Spencer McBride’s Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017), we’re pleased today to post this Q&A with Spencer about his book and his future research. McBride is a historian and documentary editor at The Joseph Smith Papers. He earned a Ph.D. in History at Louisiana State University, and is currently working on several book projects, which you can read about more hereContinue reading

Books in the Early U.S. Survey

booksI’m teaching two sections of the first half of the U.S. survey this semester (which goes to 1877 here at BYU). I taught two sections of the same last semester. After nearly a five-year break from the classroom as I researched and wrote a dissertation, it was fun to be back in the classroom: to work with students, take a step back from the specifics of my own research, reflect on the broader themes and developments of early American history,  and to update my lecture/discussion notes and outlines with the vast amounts of excellent scholarship produced over the course of that five-year period.

I’ve changed quite a bit in the content, focus, and structure of the course, and updated both assignments and class policies to be more student friendly (fewer lectures, more discussions, making more effective use of technology, and experimenting with unessays, to name just a few such changes). One thing that has not changed, however, is the amount of reading I assign. In addition to their textbook, students read widely from primary sources (this semester features significantly more sources by and about women, thanks in large part to Sara Damiano’s January post here at The Junto). They also read four scholarly books over the course of the semester.  Continue reading

On the Joseph Smith Papers, Documentary Editing Projects, and the Public

img_9068On September 19, a team of editors introduced the latest volume from the Joseph Smith Papers Project to a small group of scholars and bloggers gathered both in person and via skype. I readily agreed to participate when invited because of the excitement surrounding this particular volume. The first and only volume in the Project’s Administrative Series, it makes available the complete 1844-1846 record of the Council of Fifty, a secretive religio-political organization founded by Joseph Smith just months before his June 1844 death. The editors informed me that they wanted a representative from The Junto to attend because they anticipate that the volume’s content will be of interest to many early Americanists.  Continue reading

Q&A: Ian McKay and Maxime Dagenais, Wilson Institute for Canadian History

14518589_1761255820782817_863454985_n ianmckayWe’re pleased to feature this interview with Dr. Ian McKay, the director of the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and Dr. Maxime Dagenais, research coordinator at the Wilson Institute. Dr. McKay is a highly influential historian of Canada, whose books include The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia (1994), Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada’s Left History (2005), Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People’s Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920 (2008), and [with Jamie Swift], Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety (2012). He was named the Wilson Institute’s new director in 2015. Dr. Dagenais is a historian of Canada and the United States and holds a PhD in 19th Century British and French North American history from the University of Ottawa (October 2011). He was formerly a L.R. Wilson postdoctoral fellow at the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University and a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (2014-2016), where he was affectionately known as “Canadian Max.” He is the co-author (with Beatrice Craig) of The Land in Between. The Upper St. John Valley, Prehistory to World War One (2009), and is currently working on a research project on the 1837-38 Canadian Rebellions and the American people. Continue reading

CFP: Undiplomatic History: Rethinking Canada in the World

We’re pleased to share the following Call for Papers from our friends at the L.R. Wilson for Canadian History at McMaster University. 

RC0427_001A Workshop in Canadian International History
The L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University
28-29 April 2017 Continue reading