Q&A: Zara Anishanslin, Portrait of a Woman in Silk

zaraheadshotToday at The Junto, Michael Blaakman interviews Zara Anishanslin about her new book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World, which Alyssa Zuercher Reichardt reviewed yesterday. Anishanslin is an Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware—where she completed a prize-winning dissertation in 2009. In between earning her Ph.D. and returning to Delaware this fall, Anishanslin has been an Assistant Professor of History at CUNY’s College of Staten Island, as well as a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University and the New-York Historical Society.  Continue reading

#WhatComesNext? Book Ideas for the Hamilton Lover in Your Life

#WhatComesNext? Book Ideas for the Hamilton Lover in Your Life

HamiltonBooksWith Hamilton’s sweep at the Tonys last night, this year’s phenomenal tide of Hamilton-mania has hit the high-water mark. You’ve cheered each much-deserved award and accolade, you’ve memorized every word of the soundtrack, you’ve devoured the #Hamiltome. Perhaps you’ve kept up with professional historianswide range of responses to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster. Maybe you’re even one of the lucky few who’ve managed to score tickets to the show itself. But now, fans of the musical (and folks who are simply surrounded by them) might well find themselves asking, #WhatComesNext?

The Junto has the answer! Tomorrow afternoon, when you lose the daily ticket lottery yet again, why not start lookin’ for a mind at work? Grab a great history book and drown your sorrows in a flagon of sweet American Revolution knowledge. Here are some picks, creatively paired with favorite characters from the musical. Continue reading

Guest Post: Reporting from the Edges of Exceptionalism: Early American History in Oceania in 2016

Today’s post is by Taylor Spence, a Lecturer in Monash University’s School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies and a Research Fellow with the Monash Indigenous Centre. Agricultural History will publish Dr. Spence’s next article, “The Canada Thistle: The Pestilence of North American Colonialisms and the Emergence of an Exceptionalist Identity, 1783-1839” (vol. 90, no.3), this fall. He lives in Melbourne and Brooklyn.

Small_picture_of_Rhys_with_book_1983As a local representative of American Empire in Melbourne, Australia, and fifteen years after Michael McGerr and Ian Tyrrell’s spirited exchange in the pages of the American Historical Review, in which they wrestled with the potential gains and losses of a transnational American history, I thought it was time, in the spirit of Alistair Cooke, to send a “Letter to America,” checking in on the topic of American Exceptionalism and the viability of the transnational historical project in Oceania.[1] Reporting from the front lines of the outward-pression of the exceptionalist frontier, I can report that it has only partially been successful: you in the U.S. have much more work to do if you hope to bring Australians to worship at the altar of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln. Perhaps a touring company of Hamilton would be in order? But if, in all seriousness, the continued popularity of American history courses at my Australian university and a similar lack of popularity for Australian history courses attests to the successful mystification of a certain segment of the population, the clear-eyed work of Oceanic Early Americanists demonstrates that the U.S. metanarrative is but grist for the mill. For decades, now, these scholars have produced an unabating stream of masterful transnational studies, which are methodically eroding the exceptionalist juggernaut. Continue reading

Building Intellectual Community at SHEAR

Students of the early American republic: I urge you to apply to SHEAR 2016’s Graduate Research Seminars!

The program, which debuted last year, brings together grad students and senior faculty clustered around four “hot” themes in the field for an hour and a half or so of small-group discussion. Lunch is free. The sessions are open to current graduate students and those who earned a Ph.D. during the 2015-16 academic year. A one-page dissertation abstract is all it takes to apply. Best of all, this year’s lineup of topics and faculty is just as wonderful as 2015’s was. Continue reading

SHEAR 2015: Conference Recap

IMG_3337

Ann Fabian’s SHEAR Presidential Address

The Society for Historians of the Early American Republic enjoyed three energizing days in Raleigh, North Carolina, last weekend. Lightbulbs went off—and, sometimes, sparks flew—in sessions centered on a vast range of questions about what Ann Fabian called the “complex and unmade world” of the early republic. The book exhibit was abuzz with talk of projects newly published and still in the works. And each evening, the sidewalks thronged with surprisingly large crowds of carousing local youths; we can only assume they were so lively because they knew that the early Americanists had brought the party to town. Continue reading

Teaching Hipster History: Ending the Semester on an Ironic Note

Hipster GWConclusions are hard, I find, and no less so in teaching than in writing. Both at the end of a book and at the end of a course, really great endings add a bit of spice—something just new or unexpected enough to cast what’s come before in a different light, something that makes it exciting to reflect back across the material you’ve just learned.

I aim for student-driven discussions, and at semester’s end in previous seminars and discussion sections, I’ve struggled to coax students into producing the final chord that resonates in all registers of a course’s architecture. I’ve had students free-write (and then discuss) to summarize, as succinctly as possible, the change over time they’ve learned about in the course, and I’ve asked students to identify what one idea from the class they hope they’ll remember forty years from now. Both exercises have produced good-enough results. But since they didn’t ask students to see the courses’ material anew in any way, I’ve found myself wanting more.

But my students’ final discussion this semester was so invigorating that I just had to write a blog post about it. Continue reading

Socializing, Speculating, and Speaking French in François Furstenberg’s Philadelphia

François Furstenberg. When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Furstenberg CoverOn the Fourth of July, 1794, two former members of France’s Constituent Assembly gazed from a window across New York’s Bowling Green. Both had arrived in the United States just that year. Back in 1789, they had helped to launch a revolutionary movement for liberal and constitutional reforms. But as the Revolution grew ever more violent and threatened to destroy them, they fled France. The United States, they thought, would be a suitable refuge: the republican spawn of the British government whose constitution they so admired, the new nation whose Enlightenment principles would guard them from the threats of the Parisian mob. They must have been unnerved to see “a host of pro-French radicals” marching towards them that day, the rabble-rousing Girondin ambassador Edmond-Charles Genet at the fore, “singing the Marseillaise and other republican songs,” and hurling insults up to the windows where the émigrés stood watching (80). Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHThe past week has brought a number of fascinating developments in the world of academe and early America. But I think by far the most exciting has been the arrival in mailboxes around the country of the Fall 2014 issue of Early American Studies—a special edition dedicated to “Critical Approaches to Sex and Gender in Early America.” The articles are rich, creative, and surprising; I haven’t been able to put the issue down. If you’ve not gotten around to reading it yet, head on over to Project Muse and enjoy. In case you have already savored the new EAS issue, though, here’s your weekly roundup of noteworthy online happenings to bide you through a crisp fall Sunday. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Revolutions in the Margins of AMC’s “Turn”

Don Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Northwestern University. His work explores how ordinary Americans experienced the major political and military events of the Revolutionary era in the course of their everyday lives, and how those experiences shaped actions and changed world-views going forward. Don’s dissertation, now nearing completion, examines the social dynamics of six port cities occupied by the British army during the Revolutionary War.

TurnThe AMC series Turn ended its first season last month with mixed reviews. The consensus seems to be that the series, which tells the story of the Culper spy ring during the American Revolution, has a strong cast, good production values, and promising subject matter but ultimately fails both as a drama and as an accurate representation of history. Popular reviews have mostly found the narrative arc slow and frustrating, while the show’s numerous departures from the historical record have inspired an entire blog devoted to separating fact from fiction. As The Junto’s Roy Rogers put it in his review of the first three episodes back in April, these narrative and historical failings made the series in large part “just another morality play—The Patriot in the guise of Mad Men.”

While Turn‘s main storyline falls far short of doing justice to the fascinating story of the Culper spies, in its background characters and neglected subplots lie many of the complex and diverse experiences of ordinary Americans. Continue reading

“Let a thousand MOOCs bloom”: An Interview with Peter Onuf

OnufHere at The Junto, we noted last semester’s flurry of history MOOCs with a combination of interest, excitement, and trepidation. Peter Onuf—the University of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor, Emeritus, and the instructor of Coursera’s recent MOOC, “The Age of Jefferson”—graciously agreed to answer some of our questions about his experience. In the transcribed interview that follows, we discussed not only the process of designing and creating his MOOC, but also his thoughts about online classes and the future of higher education in general.

Continue reading