Puerto Rico and the Regional Caribbean

For early Americanists, the past two decades have seen an increase in scholarship connecting the early modern Caribbean to colonial North America. The Caribbean adds significant depth and dimension to discussions of race, slavery, diplomacy, capitalism, gender, and imperial competition by expanding the historiographies and archival resources common to early American scholarship. Yet, when a colleague stopped by my office asking for readings on seventeenth-century Puerto Rico to assign for a class, I drew a blank. Despite the excellent scholarship on colonial Puerto Rico written in Spanish, English-language scholarship focuses primarily on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[1]

What made this worse was that last Thursday was the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico. And, while the devastation and continued struggles on the island garner on-going media attention, the anniversary set me thinking about the place of the Caribbean in our scholarship and our teaching. It seems that, despite increased attention to the Caribbean within the field of vast early America, not all Caribbeans are created equal. And that unevenness demands our attention. Continue reading

Frogs and Cats, or, Access and Privilege

I have never heard anything like those frogs. I was crunching along the gravel walkway from Historic Jamestowne back to the bus after the final reception of the Omohundro Institute conference in June. As I walked through the woods, the James River at my back, the calls of frogs and insects hammered at the air, drowning out the chatter of other attendees and the crunch of my own footsteps.

An hour before, I had gazed down into the archaeological dig of a kitchen site, in which researchers had discovered what they argue are cannibalized human remains in 2012. All the hairs on my neck stood up. Continue reading

Part of the Long History of Child Trafficking: 18th-Century French Louisiana

2005-0011As we continue to learn more about the seizure and internment of migrant infants and children, both along the U.S.-Mexico border and in ICE raids throughout the nation, historians have asked us to wrestle with our long history of child-snatching, family separation, and child trafficking. I’ve read these pieces with a keen sense that while this is a particularly acute theme in American history, separating and abducting children from their families has been a tactic that many regimes have used for centuries to bolster their power. Whether we’re discussing slavery, the expulsion of Moriscos from Spain, or even pronatalist policies to populate early modern colonies, trafficking children has been an enduring state tactic. As a historian of #VastEarlyAmerica, with a focus on the French context, I keep thinking about the growth of the Louisiana colony in the eighteenth century. In addition to the forced migration and abduction of thousands of enslaved Africans, many of whom were children and adolescents, eighteenth-century French Louisiana was also populated with trafficked French children. Continue reading

“Trans-American Crossings” Conference Recap

Over the weekend, an international group of scholars met on the campus of Brown University to participate in a conference focused on various forms of enslaved migrations throughout the Americas from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Sponsored by the Omohundro Institute and the John Carter Brown Library, the meeting represented the fifth in a series of conferences about the transatlantic slave trade that have been organized by the OI.

For anyone who couldn’t make it to Providence[1], the panels were live-tweeted and can be found #TransAmCrossings. While the tweets of my colleagues give a great sense of the flow of the conversations over the weekend, what follows here are some of my reflections on the broader questions and themes that drove intellectual exchanges during and after the panels. Continue reading

A Survey of Assumptions

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 5.36.17 PMWith spring well underway, many of us are experiencing the satisfaction of marking the last grade on the final blue book of the semester, with an eye toward the approaching summer months and the freedom to work on our own research projects.[1] This makes it a foolhardy moment to entice Junto readers into thinking about teaching the survey, but it also presents an opportunity to reflect on our students and how their backgrounds should shape our approach in the classroom. Continue reading

A President, a Cardinal, and a Soldier walk into a bar…

The Council, Episode One: The Mad Ones by Big Bad Wolf [PC, PS4, XBOX One]

[NB:  This article contains significant story spoilers for the first episode of the video game The Council by Big Bad Wolf]

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What if John Adams had a secret, occult daughter with a period inappropriate haircut?

This is one of the central plot points of the first episode Big Bad Wolf’s historical episodic video game The Council. Set in 1793 the player takes control of a twenty-something blank slate with a cool jacket, named Louis de Richet. Louis is seeking to uncover a mystery relating to Sarah, his ice queen secret agent mother. Invited to a “private island” off the English coast by Lord Mortimer, a British aristo whose aesthetic is a Regency Bond villain mixed with Eyes Wide Shut, Louis is works to uncover why Sarah vanished from one of Mortimer’s smashing shindigs. Mortimer’s shtick, you see, is hosting gatherings of the best and brightest of the late eighteenth century Euro-American world. Once Louis arrives at Mortimer’s latest fete that you discover just how vast The Council’s world is, for guess who is waiting for you by the fire?

None other than George Washington, a historical figure who our readers are likely quite familiar with. Continue reading

Portrait of a Juntoist in Motion

I’ve had a blog, in one place or another, since 2002, and thus the distinction between “a blog” and “a blog post” is a hill on which I am willing to die. But before Ben Park approached me to be one of The Junto’s founding members, I hadn’t blogged extensively about history. Five years later, I still want to write about other topics in addition to history, but I firmly believe that my history teaching and history scholarship have benefitted from my membership here. That said, I think my role as a blogger for The Junto has changed since 2012, and will continue to transform in the future. Today, I want to reflect on some of these changes. Continue reading

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