A short while ago, I wrote on the importance of political caricatures within eighteenth-century British America. I called for an increased focus on how caricatures affected, and in some cases represented, politics during the American Revolution. In today’s post, I’d like to do something similar—I’d like to call for an increased focus on newspaper mastheads. An increased exploration on what they meant, and how they were used for political mobilization. Continue reading
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.
“Welders make more money than philosophers,” Marco Rubio said in a recent G.O.P. debate. “We need more welders and less philosophers,” he continued, proudly. It was a decent line from the presidential hopeful. But not long after these words echoed around the Milwaukee Theatre, it was shown to be a somewhat clumsy statement, not least when seen alongside figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (comparative wages: philosophers & welders). Thus over the days following Rubio’s line, it was caricatured, with one cartoonist picking up on Rubio’s wording. This G.O.P. presidential candidate is not alone: All of the 2016 presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, have been caricatured. So, too, are their worldwide equivalents on a regular basis. Continue reading
Should historians embrace the art of narrative, or treat it with more suspicion? In his review of Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton back in July, USIH’s Kurt Newman argued that “the book-length narrative” is not “the proper form for the presentation of a historical argument.” Narrative, he wrote, involves too much selection, too many authorial choices hidden from the reader. “Most importantly,” Newman suggested, “constructing a narrative is almost always tied up with some telos or end,” a teleology that serves as expression or conduit of ideology, pulling us towards the outcome we imagine fits. Narrative, in other words, is something more than reasoned argument. It enlists desire to shape the way we think. Continue reading
Today’s guest post comes from Andrew M. Schocket, Professor of History and American Culture Studies and Director of American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, and Billy G. Smith, the Michael P. Malone Professor of History, & Distinguished Professor of Letters and Science at Montana State University.
Data. Before postmodernism, or environmental history, or the cultural turn, or the geographic turn, and even before the character on the old Star Trek series, historians began to gather and analyze quantitative evidence to understand the past. As computers became common during the 1970s and 1980s, scholars responded by painstakingly compiling and analyzing datasets, using that evidence to propose powerful new historical interpretations. Today, much of that information (as well as data compiled since) is in danger of disappearing. For that and other reasons, we have developed a website designed to preserve and share the datasets permanently (or at least until aliens destroy our planet). We appeal to all early American historians (not only the mature ones from earlier decades) to take the time both to preserve and to share their statistical evidence with present and future scholars. It will not only be a legacy to the profession but also will encourage historians to share their data more openly and to provide a foundation on which scholars can build. Continue reading
He was, at first, another young shadow hurrying through Westminster Hall. He carried flimsier credentials than most, papers hastily sent by a new nation called the Confederate States of America. It was November 1862, and, since spring, he had stretched expenses to accommodate the bare $750 granted to fund his secretive mission. Still, regular sightings of the worn, 29 year-old Swiss-American stranger, who had shipped to London via the fiery newsrooms of Richmond and Mobile, caused a flutter of concern among British peers. Within weeks, the constant American shadow near Parliament became a very real worry. “He is but a private gentleman, it is true,” one M.P. fretted, “yet he may leave his card at the Foreign Office, and possibly find his way upstairs.” Continue reading
Hannah Bailey is a PhD candidate in History at the College of William & Mary, where her research examines the interconnectivity between developing notions of race and the expansion of the African slave trade in the early modern French Atlantic. This is her second guest post at The Junto. Be sure and read her earlier post on French archives and entangled histories here.
As someone who is also leaping into an entirely new historiography in preparation for dissertation writing, I could commiserate with Casey Schmitt’s brilliantly astute post on the costs and benefits of comparative projects. It can be terrifying to move from a historiography with which one is relatively comfortable to, as she puts it, “a [new] field where innumerable scholars have dedicated entire careers.” I took one undergraduate class on West African history (which was a survey course that occurred five years ago), and yet my dissertation focuses heavily on early modern histories of West Africa and the Atlantic networks of knowledge (and ignorance) that shaped them. The body of exemplary secondary source material on West Africa is vast, and working with it for the first time is more than a little daunting. Continue reading