Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your History? A Review of “Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical is Restaging America’s Past ”

7386e4d5eae820a187487f334ae41901Early this morning, two hundred and fourteen years ago, Alexander Hamilton was shot in an infamous duel with rival Aaron Burr. Hamilton died the next day, Burr’s days as a legitimate political candidate were over, and both soon faded into relative historical obscurity. Some centuries later, their tale fell into the hands of Broadway force Lin Manuel Miranda, who was fresh off the success of his first full length production, In the Heights. Hamilton’s life and death were about to make an epic comeback, styled to powerhouse ballads, rap battles, and New York city fanfare. Continue reading

Interpreting US History in the UK: The American Museum in Britain

As an American studying American history in the UK, my response to the question of “What are you studying?” often inspires wry smiles, wrinkled brows, and variations of “Why here?” Although I am now fairly adept at justifying my decision, I remain fascinated by the concept of studying a nation’s history beyond its geographic boundaries. With my time in Britain near its end, I traveled to Bath to visit  The American Museum in Britain, a place all too familiar with this topic. The Museum is located in Claverton Manor, a nineteenth-century English country manor on 125 acres of land, and also features a Folk-Art Gallery, an exhibit hall, and gardens.[1] Continue reading

Do Objects Lie? A New Video for Teaching About Material Evidence

Is material culture as inherently untrustworthy? I was once at a conference roundtable where one attendee claimed that “Material culture is so elitist, just rich people’s stuff in museums.” Fortunately, a historical archaeologist in the room begged to differ, arguing that archaeology offered a rich record of people who did not necessarily leave written sources behind. When I recently required my students to analyze both a material and a textual source, they concluded that material sources were inherently more difficult to work with than their written counterparts. “Once I describe the object, there’s nothing left to say about it,” one student complained.

I’ve been hearing variations of this argument my entire academic life. As a scholar who both studies and teaches with material culture, I find this reasoning both fascinating and frustrating. Why do so many people, from scholars to students, consider material culture somehow a lesser form of evidence than the written word? 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

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Alea Henle of Western New Mexico University

“It doesn’t hurt to have some self-knowledge about what works for you [and] what kind of environment works for you.” ~ Dr. Alea Henle, Head of Public Services Librarian, Western New Mexico University.

henle imageWelcome back to “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America!” This week Katy chats with Dr. Alea Henle, Head of Public Services Librarian at the J. Cloyd Miller Library at Western New Mexico University. The pair discuss the importance of “knowing your audience” as a historian and “self-knowledge” when it comes to thinking about next steps for a career. Continue reading

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Anne Petersen of Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

“I went on to the doctorate because I didn’t want a ceiling on what I could achieve as a historian.” ~ Dr. Anne Petersen, Executive Director, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Anne PetersenWelcome back to the latest installment of “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America.” Today, we venture westward to California to feature a Q&A with Dr. Anne Petersen, the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Katy and Anne discuss the dynamic history interpretation taking place at SBTHP, which focuses on the diverse cultures and communities that have called Santa Barbara home for centuries. The pair also consider the complexities of navigating a “dual identity” in graduate school when choosing to pursue an array of history careers. Continue reading

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Margaret Bendroth of the Congregational Library and Archives

“I’ve learned so much about how historians talk to the general public … If you tell a good story you can get people to hang in and keep listening.” ~ Dr. Margaret Bendroth, Executive Director of the Congregational Library & Archives.

Library-10.jpgFor today’s “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America,” Katy chats with Dr. Margaret Bendroth, the Executive Director of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston, Massachusetts. They discuss the importance of story telling and having an “entrepreneurial” frame of mind, when it comes to a vibrant career in history.

Continue reading

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Valerie Paley of N-YHS

“The work I do is true to our training [as historians] and representative of what that training can be for the public.” ~ Dr. Valerie Paley, Vice President, Chief Historian, and Director of the Center for Women’s History at New-York Historical Society.

VALERIE PALEY 2015 (1)After a brief break to make room for the fantastic “Founding Fiction” roundtable series about children’s and young adult literature, “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America” is back! We’re excited to feature two interviews today and tomorrow.

Today, we bring you a conversation between The Junto’s Katy Lasdow and Dr. Valerie Paley, Vice President, Chief Historian, and Director of the Center for Women’s History at New-York Historical Society. Continue reading

#VastEarlyAmerica(n) Girl Doll Books: Reflections of a Father and Historian

When Sara first pitched the idea of The Junto hosting a roundtable dedicated to children’s and young adult fiction focused on early America, I was excited. But unlike others, I was excited not because Johnny Tremain was my favorite childhood read or because my own trajectory toward becoming a historian could be traced to the Dear America series or the young adult fiction of Ann Rinaldi. While I vaguely remember reading Johnny Tremain in elementary school, along with other books of early American historical fiction during my childhood and teenage years, my own interest in history was a later development in life. My excitement about this proposed roundtable came rather because I’m a father of three young children who love to read and be read to, and because I’m adamant about ensuring that they’re raised as historically-aware and -literate individuals. Continue reading

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Kenneth Minkema of the Jonathan Edwards Center

“The search for gainful employment drives a willingness to be diverse in your ways of being a historian.” ~ Dr. Kenneth P. Minkema, The Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University.

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For this week’s “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America,” The Junto features a Q&A with Dr. Kenneth P. Minkema, the Executive Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, and the Executive Director of The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. Dr. Minkema is also a member of the Research Faculty at the Yale Divinity School.

In today’s Q&A, Katy and Ken chat about many topics, including the role that mentors and advisors can play in shaping career choices in graduate school and beyond, and how finding the right “fit” or “vocation” can be a true source of professional inspiration and purpose. Continue reading