As a result of the misbehaviour of several Juntoists, I am quite sorry to announce that I, along with several other members, will be leaving The Junto and forming a new online forum for the study of early America. Our declaration follows: Continue reading
Francis J. Bremer is Professor Emeritus of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and has been a visiting scholar at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England, and Trinity College in Dublin, among other institutions. He has published numerous books and articles on puritanism in the Atlantic World, most notably John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (Oxford, 2003); Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (Yale, 2012); and Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism (Macmillan, 2015). He is editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society and Coordinator of New England Beginnings, a partnership to commemorate the cultures that shaped New England.
New England Beginnings is a partnership of New England historical organizations and museums, ancestry organizations, and participating scholars formed in 2015 to plan efforts to commemorate the cultures that shaped New England on the occasion of the four hundredth anniversaries of events such as the founding of Plymouth and the settlement of Massachusetts. The goals of the partnership are to 1) tell the stories of the region in the seventeenth century to a wide, general public audience and 2) to enhance accessibility of resources for future scholarship in the field. The website identifies the partners; offers narrative of what was happening “400 Year Ago;” provides information on events, programs, opportunities; podcasts and videos; and a bibliography.
While this is early days for the partnership, which is working to produce programs for 2020, some initiatives have come to fruition:
Programs to Facilitate scholarship:
The Massachusetts Historical Society has put an electronic, searchable edition of the first four published volumes of the Winthrop Papers online on their website. This will eventually be followed by the remaining published volumes, further correspondence, a collection of Winthrop religious writings, and an edition of John Winthrop Jr.’s medical notebook.
The Commonwealth Library has the manuscript of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation online. With the support of the Colonial Society a team has been put together to produce a new transcript and annotation reflecting both the Pilgrim and native points of view with Jeremy Bangs of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum and Francis J. Bremer providing the former, and Paula Peters of the Wampanoag tribe providing the native perspective. A grant request for NEH funding is pending.
Programs to educate a wide public audience:
The Congregational Library and Archives has produced “Puritan Boston Tests Democracy,” a free app for phones and tablets. The app can be used anywhere to learn the basic history of the people, places, and events that shaped early Boston, but can also be used with its GPS feature to do a self-guided tour of those sites.
Participating scholars have agreed to offer talks and/or discussion to high school and university classes, as well as church and civic groups via tele-conference, Skype, FaceTime or similar technology. The scholars will donate a modest fee (probably $100) to New England Beginnings to cover partnership costs moving forward.
On Christmas Day the Associated Press released a story (“Scholars Team Up to Dispel 400 Year Old ‘Fake News’ About US”) which was picked up by well over a hundred media outlets in this country and abroad. The reaction by those who bothered to use online TV and newspaper “comment” opportunities was overwhelmingly hostile. Typical comments included:
- “’Leading scholars from around the globe are teaming up to shed more light on how America got its start.’ Translate to: We are coming to rewrite your history for you, U.N. style!”
- “Liberal army assault continues unabated. The only way to stop liberals from their agenda is to treat this as a war and they are the enemy.”
- “Any time I hear ‘scholars say …’ I take it with not just a grain of salt but a whole spoonful.”
- “President Trump is a very wise man. ‘Common Core’ will be, in fact, rescinded. History will once again be taught in our schools. ‘Angry White Men’ know history. Liberal professors and liberal public teachers will now be held accountable for truth. ‘Indoctrination’ of our young will leave with the Obama legacy. State-run schools will now have the power to keep education unblemished from liberal trash.”
- “The story will be, no doubt, shedding ‘new’ light on how White People screwed over everybody. It started with Columbus, and will no doubt end when liberals get tired of crapping on White People.”
- “Suggestion, read Rush Limbaugh’s book ‘The Brave Pilgrims.’ It will enlighten most ‘scholars,’ were that possible.
Some will be quick to discount such comments as coming from the same element of the population that are Biblical literalists denying evolution, those who reject climate change, and groups promoting white nationalism. But these comments come from citizens, and citizens who are a significant enough element in our society to help explain the election of Donald Trump. If our goal as educators is to develop in our students an ability to evaluate things with open and reflective minds and our task as historians to explain the complexities of the past—painting the picture with the warts, but not only focusing on the warts—we have clearly failed with this segment of the population. The adherence of these commentators (and rest assured, many who didn’t bother to write) to the old black hat (natives)/ white hat (settlers) story speaks to the need for us to do a better job of explaining the past. But in doing so we should recognize that many scholars have fallen into a comparable paradigm whereby puritans are simplistically depicted as black hats (intolerant, misogynist, religious fanatics, racist—in other words warts only) and natives as white hats (victims, proto-environmentalists, etc.).
What is necessary, and what the goal of New England Beginnings is, is to develop nuanced appreciations of all the cultures that shaped New England scholars that rejects all faith as fanaticism and judges too much of the past by modern values. Challenging as this will be, what makes success even more problematic is the widespread rejection of expertise by many of our fellow citizens. How can we persuade people who reject our claim that years of studying the sources gives us a greater insight into the past? The identification of the scholarly community as something that needs to be discarded and its members purged (Professor Watch Lists) threatens us individually but more than that threatens the integrity of academe. One can laugh at the idea of learning about the Pilgrims from a children’s book written by Rush Limbaugh, but it is in its own way the same as people turning to and relying on only the news outlets that reinforce their existing beliefs.
Joyce Oldham Appleby was born in Nebraska on April 9, 1929. After a rootless childhood that involved a number of moves from Illinois to California (and a number of places in between), Appleby attended Stanford University, where she received her BA in History in 1950. After spending a few years working as a writer for Mademoiselle in New York City, she returned to California and subsequently decided to pursue graduate study in history. Following an MA at UC-Santa Barbara, Appleby went on to complete her PhD at Claremont Graduate University in 1966 with a dissertation entitled, “An American in Paris: The Career of an American Pamphlet in French Revolutionary Politics, 1787-89.” In 1968, after a year abroad in Paris with her family, which, by now, included three children, Appleby published her first article in the American Historical Review, “The Jefferson-Adams Rupture and the First French Translation of John Adams’ Defence,” and accepted a job at San Diego State University. Continue reading
BGEAH 2017: “Land and Water: Port Towns, maritime connections, and oceanic spaces of the early modern Atlantic World.” Call for Papers
The British Group of Early American Historians will hold its annual conference at the University of Portsmouth, 31 August – 3 September 2017.
Drawing on Portsmouth’s historic significance as a port town this year’s conference theme is: “Land and Water: Port Towns, maritime connections, and oceanic spaces of the early modern Atlantic World.” Portsmouth was a site of embarkation for those who shaped (or attempted to shape) the political, social, and demographic contours of the Atlantic World: the Roanoke colonists departed from the town in 1587; as did Admiral Nelson for the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It was a hub of imperial force in the form of the Royal Navy and intimately connected with the imperial conflicts across the globe, and also of the protection and then prevention of the transatlantic slave trade. Yet, as with all port towns, the social space between water and land was a space for contestation and conflict; a space for opportunity and escape. Continue reading
Since the blog first launched in December 2012, we have published 794 posts. That is somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 words of original content on early American history posted on the blog in less than 4 years. And since new readers find the blog regularly and our longtime readers may often have missed posts for various reasons, I want to use today’s post to simply make our readers aware of our back catalog and highlight the resources the blog has for accessing and making better use of it. Continue reading
If you haven’t noticed, the blog has been a bit, well, quiet lately. We promise that wasn’t all a hiccup! Well, most of it, anyway. About halfway through the summer we realized our productivity was lagging so we decided to call it a summer sabbatical—we are academics, after all.
Anyway, I’m pleased to say that, as the Fall Semester is about to commence for many of us, The Junto is ready to kick off another great year. We have posts scheduled nearly every day for the foreseeable future, and I swear some of them will probably be good. We’re gonna attack the season like the 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors, though we hope our ending won’t be so anti-climactic.
We do have some exciting things in store as the blog transitions into its next phase. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can check out our new Contribute page to find out more about how to write a guest post for us.
As always, we appreciate any and all feedback. We truly appreciate all our faithful readers—we now have over four thousand subscribers to the blog, and even more casual visitors—and feel this is one of many digital centers for the early American history community. Or, ahem, #VastEarlyAmerica.