This month in class I’m teaching the Puritans, which means that an idea I’ve had for several years has returned, and I’ve been mulling it for a few days. As most of our readers already know, the Bible was easily the most widely owned and widely read publication in the British North American colonies (in particular in New England). Protestant Christian settlers were deeply versed in the Bible – they could cite and quote regularly from a broad range of prophecies, parables, and psalms. But they also read and understood the Bible in historically specific ways, focusing on certain books of the Bible in their study and reflection, quoting certain passages with higher frequency than others. For those of us who are not religious historians (and/or were raised ourselves in traditions in which textual exegesis was not strongly emphasized), figuring out not only the meaning of Biblical passages but also the ways in which specific historical actors used them would require significant reading.
With summer winding down and the fall semester upon us (or nearly so), that means it’s also time for those headed onto the job market to make sure their materials are in order as the first application deadlines approach. There’s lots of advice out there about how to do that (enough that I can’t begin to link to the many essays). But as I advanced from years on the job market into a position myself—including work on a department search—I’ve thought about what advice I would offer based on my perspective of the process. Rather than offer a bullet-point list of do’s and don’ts (though you can see those at the end), I’d like to provide some perspective on the audiences of the job letter. It’s a weird genre of writing, so it bears consideration as you put together your materials.
In designing courses, professors and teachers face a number of competing claims for time and attention: skill development appropriate to the level of the course, the content described in the course catalog, campus, system, or state requirements for content, the primary sources and scholarship that will promote the best discussions and consideration of the course topic. As many of us have written here at the Junto, not to mention elsewhere, much therefore ends up on the cutting room floor—and some of it painfully so.
Most history courses follow a relatively simple formula: take a geographic space X, select a time span from A to B, add topics, and you’ve got yourself a course. It varies, of course, but works for both introductory courses, where you might survey the political, social, and cultural development of the people living in a geographic area, to upper-level courses with topical focuses. As a field whose primary concern is change over time, that formula makes sense. That consistency also means that students expect it from their high school and college history courses. And how else would you organize a history course?
I found out last semester.
It’s hard to believe that this is our fourth annual roundup of panels and presentations about early America and the Atlantic World at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Convening this year in Atlanta beginning today (January 7) and running through January 10, the program this year offers a theme of “Global Migrations: Empires, Nations, and Neighbors.”
People go to the AHA for many reasons, and we wish all of you a good conference experience (most especially those of you interviewing for jobs). As we have for the past few years, below you’ll find a guide to many of the panels that include our colleagues and readers who work on topics related to early America and the Atlantic world. We’ve done our best to capture as many panels of interest to our readership, in the spirit of “vast Early America,” as Omohundro Institute Director Karin Wulf put it earlier this week. But we also surely missed a few panels of interest, so please feel free to suggest other possibilities in the comments.
With that said, scroll down for a day-by-day rundown, with links to the program description for each panel. (You can also browse the full program, of course.)
As many of our readers already know, this fall has marked the 250th anniversary since the protests against the Stamp Act, one of the earliest major actions of the imperial crisis that resulted in the American Revolution. Over the course of a year—from the first arrival of the Act in May 1765 until news of its repeal arrived in May 1766—colonists in the “thirteen original” colonies (as well as the “other thirteen”) passed resolutions, argued in essays, marched in the streets, forced resignations, and otherwise made clear their displeasure with paying a tax on their printed goods.
Earlier this week historian Rebecca Onion published an essay in Aeon arguing that historians should take more seriously the concept of counterfactuals. Though often derided by professional historians, Onion argues quite effectively that such an approach to the past can force us to reconsider our assumptions about what actually did happen and ask new and perhaps even more creative questions about the past.