Winter Reads

Just in time for your holiday shopping list, here’s our preview of new titles—share your finds in the comments! Continue reading

Maryland Football and Public Memory of the War of 1812

Screen-shot-2014-09-09-at-11.36.16-AMEarlier this week, the University of Maryland and their athletic uniform supplier, Under Armour, announced that the university’s football team “will wear football uniforms inspired by the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ when it hosts West Virginia at Byrd Stadium” tomorrow, September 13.[1] The game will be played exactly 200 years to the day after Francis Scott Key penned “Defence of Fort McHenry,” a poem later set to music and adopted as the national anthem of the United States, which helped ensure that the all too oft-forgotten War of 1812 would retain some place in America’s collective memory. Continue reading

Digital History in the Surveillance State

nsahqThree days ago, the Washington Post reported the results of an investigation into a large collection of files provided by Edward Snowden. Reviewing 160,000 intercepted electronic conversations and 8,000 other documents, which Snowden apparently accessed on NSA servers after that agency collected them, the Post’s reporters found that nearly half of them contained information pertaining to U.S. citizens. Overall, the article says, the sample showed that the government scooped up information on nine bystanders (as it were) for every “targeted” individual under electronic surveillance. On that basis, the reporters speculate that the NSA may have collected information on as many as 800,000 non-target individuals in 2013.

I don’t intend to comment here on the legality, ethics, or wisdom of the NSA’s programs or the Snowden leaks. But I do think this report is fascinating and important. And I think it’s worth considering from the standpoint of digital history.

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Announcing the Missouri Regional Seminar on Early American History

Seminar series have been a popular facet of the early American history culture across the country, from Philadelphia and New York across to the Rocky Mountains and the Bay Area. In this post, we’re introducing another regional seminar to the mix, based around Missouri and the greater St Louis area (extending into central Illinois, and interest from eastern Kansas, southern Iowa, or northern Arkansas is most welcome). We’re hoping to foster a sense of community among those working on early American topics in the region, and to provide a supportive environment for graduate students and faculty to test out preliminary findings of their research. Continue reading

Herb Sloan’s Contributions to Scholarship on Jeffersonian America

Last Tuesday, May 13, the Columbia University Seminar on Early American History and Culture and the Department of History hosted an evening in honor of Professor Herb Sloan of Barnard College. Herb, who is retiring this spring after 28 years as a member of Barnard’s history faculty, was the guest of honor at an evening commemorating both his contributions to the field of early American history, as well as a roundtable discussion on “Jeffersonian America.” Continue reading

Godly Heritage and Plantation Chic: The Case of Vision Forum

Detail from a page of the Vision Forum 2014 catalogA recent news story has me thinking about the weird enduring appeal of the Lost Cause. It seems to me that this news story about a contemporary religious organization might lead us into an interesting case study. Why, at this late date, do so many Americans still want to see the antebellum South as a tragically vanished world of nobility and grace?

Most early Americanists are familiar with David Barton, a conservative activist who argues that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. He’s been mentioned here several times as the most visible proponent of a view that’s common among members of the “Religious Right.”[1] What’s less widely understood is how often his Christian-founding ideology overlaps with a claim advanced by a few other evangelical conservatives: that the Confederacy—and antebellum southern culture, if not slavery itself—are also part of “America’s Godly heritage.”[2] In these circles, in other words, the Founding is sometimes wrapped up with the Old South.

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