The Long Game of U.S. Historiography: A Century of Competing Interpretations

The Temple Early Atlantic Seminar presents a day-long symposium

The Long Game of U.S. Historiography:

A Century of Competing Interpretations

Monday, March 23, 2020

9:00 ~ Introduction

9:15-10:45 ~ François Furstenberg, Johns Hopkins University

“Frederick Jackson Turner and the Physiographic Imagination”

Although Frederick Jackson Turner has long been associated with the field of Western history, his historical vision went far beyond the U.S. West. This paper explores Turner’s fascination with the discipline of “physiography,” a late nineteenth century science that combined geography, geology, forestry, minerology, glaciology, and climate sciences more broadly. Might we even see it as a precursor of today’s environmental history?

11-12:30 ~ Harvey Neptune, Temple University

“The Lost Work of Daniel J. Boorstin: rethinking anti-racist historiography on the Early Republic”

In the widely accepted story of the anti-racist turn in Founding Fathers’ scholarship, Winthrop Jordan’s White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro figures conventionally as the “landmark,” the big book that heroically led to the scholarly “demolition” of the Jeffersonian image.  The following essay offers an alternative account, one that recovers a rarely acknowledged piece of scholarly writing that critically exposed Jeffersonian white supremacy two decades before White Over Black.   Authored by Daniel J. Boorstin, this “lost” work first appeared in 1948 in a book titled The Lost World of
Thomas Jefferson
.

1:45-3:15 ~ Johann Neem, Western Washington University

“The Fate of Democracy in the Changing Fields of Early American Historiography”

Traditionally, historians took the nation-state for granted. Embracing a global perspective, new scholars of a vaster early America have moved beyond this perspective. Their new narratives, however, reinforce neoliberal ideas of society and politics. Emphasizing exchange across borders, many histories of early America question the benefits of democracy when contrasted against empires’ capacity to create multicultural global polities.

3:30-5:30pm ~ Roundtable Discussion: The Long Game of U.S. Historiography

François Furstenberg, Harvey Neptune, Johann Neem

Chair: Jessica Choppin Roney, Temple University

** All attendees should register and plan to read the three pre-circulated papers in advance. **

Register at

https://long-game-of-us-historiography.eventbrite.com

This event is generously co-sponsored by the Temple History Department and

the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

Interview with David Doddington, Author of Contesting Slave Masculinity

C12A82F3-59EA-4122-A268-3D86945C93B9David Doddington is a Senior Lecturer in North American History at Cardiff University. His research interests centre on slavery, race, and gender in the antebellum South, with a particular interest in examining resistance, survival, and solidarity within slave communities. Today he speaks with Rachel Herrmann about his new book, Contesting Slave Masculinity in the American South. Find him on Twitter at @d_doddington. Continue reading

Roundtable Conclusion: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

Today, Rachel Herrmann concludes our food roundtable. You can read Carla Cevasco’s introduction here, Zachary Bennett’s post here, Bertie Mandelblatt’s here, and Rachel Winchcombe’s here. We hope we gave you some things to think about.

This week I spent three days reading three books, and I watched these posts go out into the world while thinking about my comps. I remember my comps year as the year of graduate school when I was more stressed than I can ever recall feeling, for such a protracted period of time, in my life.[1] But I think that it was the state of food history in 2009-10, when I was reading for my comps, that contributed to this feeling of panic.

I don’t mean the state of food studies; that discipline was already healthily expanding. I mean food history. I found comprehensive exams stressful because I knew that I wanted most to speak to early Americanists and early Atlanticists (and I think the distinction was more pronounced back then), but I was not convinced that there were very many early American food histories. There were food histories on other periods and other geographies; there were food studies books on single commodities like sugar and chicken and interdisciplinary food studies collections with foundational essays on method; there was some relevant work on alcohol, and on animals; and it felt like there was no roadmap for my dissertation.[2] Continue reading

Q&A with Christopher Parsons

Today Rachel Herrmann interviews Christopher Parsons about his book, A Not-So-New World, which Carla Cevasco reviewed yesterday. Parsons is an interdisciplinary historian of science and the environment in the French Atlantic World. He has a longstanding interest in highlighting the contribution of indigenous peoples to the evolution of European and Euro-American environmental sciences. He has published articles in the William & Mary Quarterly, Environmental History, Early American Studies, and several edited collections. He tweets as @cm_parsons. 

 JUNTO: A Not-So-New World includes a discussion about fraught vocabulary, including the word sauvage and your decision to leave it untranslated. Early Americanists have been thinking for a while now about the language we use when we write about the past, but many of us are just starting to think about the French sources that inform your book. Could you say a little bit more about other word choices you made, and some of the words in translation that non-French Atlanticists might want to use with more care?

Christopher Parsons: Word choice is so important when you are working between subdisciplines such as the history of science and environmental history and across national historiographies such as, here, early Canada and early America. These are such powerful markers of investments in particular fields or the influence of particular works. I was conscious for example, of the Canadian preference for indigenous over native and the familiarity of early Americanists with terms such as the pays d’en haut.

Yet there were real intellectual reasons for leaving key terms untranslated as well. Continue reading

Call for Blog Posts: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

In February 2017, our colleagues at Nursing Clio issued a call for a series on nutrition, resulting in a variety of posts on nutrition, food, and hunger over the several months that followed. This call aims to build on that work by focusing specifically on Vast Early America. The co-editors (Carla Cevasco and Rachel Herrmann) welcome posts spanning the fifteenth thru mid-nineteenth centuries that cover a broadly defined Atlantic World. Topics might include (but are not limited to) agriculture, cookbooks, diplomacy, foodways, hunting, livestock, medicinal recipes, markets, pharmacopeias, dietetics, single-commodity foodstuffs, and warfare. Posts should be between 750 and 1,500 words; footnotes are strongly encouraged. We also recommend reading our contribution guidelines. Please send posts to both email addresses (Carla.Cevasco@rutgers.edu and HerrmannR@cardiff.ac.uk) by March 15, 2019. We will aim to respond by early April with an eye toward running this series in late April and early May.

Interview with Michael McGandy

Michael McGandy is Senior Editor and Editorial Director of the Three Hills imprint at Cornell University Press. He tweets as @michaelmcgandy.

JUNTO: Can you outline the review and production schedule for a first book?

Michael McGandy: If I am talking to a scholar who has just wrapped up his or her dissertation and is prepared to move on to developing the book, I state as a reliable truism that the bound book is four years off. And that presumes all goes well and smoothly! The work of revising the dissertation to make it into a book manuscript is indeterminate and the further work that will need to be done in response to reader reports and then the acquiring editor’s direction is also indeterminate. Those are, as I tend to say, the x-factors. What is pretty well fixed is that external review, in-house processing through Editorial and Faculty Boards, and contracting requires four months. What is also fixed is that producing the book and getting it out into the world on its publication date (the date when it goes live for sale, which is typically four weeks after the bound book is in the warehouse) is 11 months. So, even before a person considers the time needed for new research, revising existing chapters, and adding new material, 15 months are tied up with process. (Now “tied up” is an unkind phrase for key elements of making a book both excellent and saleable! But I know that that is how people scheduling out their early professional calendars tend to think.) When one considers that fact and then all the work that needs to go into developing a manuscript—even as one pays the bills and occasionally takes a break to have some non-scholarly fun—four years go very quickly and often turn out to be barely enough time.

Reflecting on that and taking the opportunity to editorialize, I do think that the well-reviewed first book as the non-negotiable standard for professional success in a tenure-track framework (on the standard six-year schedule) needs to be rethought. Four to six years do fly by, especially when we consider all the other important and engrossing things that usually come with these first years after the PhD (first jobs, new homes in new places, family, etc.). I am not going to name names or institutions, but in this context I think of the positive examples of some recent authors of mine who were tenured without first books and who were given the extra time to work on their book projects. Their research and writing were augmented because the tenure pressure was off and the projects were transformed (for the better) because the authors had six or seven years to make the book excellent. On the whole, I do not think that the schedule for tenure matches very well with the time needed for great scholarship. Filling out the CV sometimes becomes the driving concern and to the detriment of the work itself. Continue reading