Guest Post: Reporting from the Edges of Exceptionalism: Early American History in Oceania in 2016

Today’s post is by Taylor Spence, a Lecturer in Monash University’s School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies and a Research Fellow with the Monash Indigenous Centre. Agricultural History will publish Dr. Spence’s next article, “The Canada Thistle: The Pestilence of North American Colonialisms and the Emergence of an Exceptionalist Identity, 1783-1839” (vol. 90, no.3), this fall. He lives in Melbourne and Brooklyn.

Small_picture_of_Rhys_with_book_1983As a local representative of American Empire in Melbourne, Australia, and fifteen years after Michael McGerr and Ian Tyrrell’s spirited exchange in the pages of the American Historical Review, in which they wrestled with the potential gains and losses of a transnational American history, I thought it was time, in the spirit of Alistair Cooke, to send a “Letter to America,” checking in on the topic of American Exceptionalism and the viability of the transnational historical project in Oceania.[1] Reporting from the front lines of the outward-pression of the exceptionalist frontier, I can report that it has only partially been successful: you in the U.S. have much more work to do if you hope to bring Australians to worship at the altar of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln. Perhaps a touring company of Hamilton would be in order? But if, in all seriousness, the continued popularity of American history courses at my Australian university and a similar lack of popularity for Australian history courses attests to the successful mystification of a certain segment of the population, the clear-eyed work of Oceanic Early Americanists demonstrates that the U.S. metanarrative is but grist for the mill. For decades, now, these scholars have produced an unabating stream of masterful transnational studies, which are methodically eroding the exceptionalist juggernaut. Continue reading

Guest Post: Research in Jamaica

Rounding off this week’s roundtable on travel to the archives, we are pleased to present a guest post by Dr. Aaron Graham, a Stipendiary Lecturer in History at New College, Oxford, and author of Corruption, Party, and Government in Great Britain, 1702-1713 (Oxford University Press, 2015). Aaron is currently working on corruption, finance and empire in North America and the West Indies during the long eighteenth century.

Archives in Jamaica and the West Indies tend to be overlooked. “There are duplicates of the whole lot in the [Public] Record Office in London,” one colonial official noted in 1928, “[and] researchers will work in London rather than here.”[1] My recent visit to the Jamaica Archives and National Library of Jamaica suggests this is not entirely true. The papers that were sent back to Britain tended only to be those of interest to the imperial government, and although large amounts of material have been lost or destroyed by the climate, what remains in Jamaica can shed important light on society in the West Indies from the colonial, rather than imperial perspective. Although there are frustrating gaps in all of these series, by the standards of other archives in the West Indies they are uniquely rich, and the surface has still only been scratched. Continue reading

Non-Americans Researching Early America in North America

UNBThis week, several Juntoists have offered useful guides for archival work in Spain, France, and England. Today, we are offering something slightly different—a guide to researching in North America! After all, not all early Americanists are American, and planning transatlantic trips can be daunting. Continue reading

Research in London

image-2Casey Schmitt kicked off the week with a discussion of doing research in Seville, Spain. Hannah Bailey continued our forum yesterday, with a discussion of research in France. I’m going to continue the conversation with reflections on doing research in London. (For those interested in research gear, see my post from last summer.) Since there are quite a few archives libraries and archives that are potentially of interest to Early Americanists, I will primarily focus on the logistics, such as navigating London and finding accommodations. I’ve provided basic information on a few major archives near the end.

Continue reading

Early America en Français

74106_458665741921_87935_nYesterday, Casey Schmitt began our “Archives around the Atlantic” roundtable with an extremely helpful guide to the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla. If you have not yet read her piece, you will want to do so here. My hope is that my post can be useful to two (potentially overlapping) audiences: one that is interested in general tips for doing research in French archives online, and one that will be lucky enough to be physically present in French archives in the near future.

Here are a few tips for delving into the French Atlantic from the comfort of your own internet: Continue reading

Early America in Español

This week, The Junto will explore, “Archives around the Atlantic.” As research projects frequently plunge early Americanists into far-flung archival settings, over the course of the next five days we will draw from the wide experience of our contributing editors to offer advice for approaching research abroad. It is our hope that this forum and the comments sections below might also tap into the collective expertise of The Junto readership with the common goal of making foreign archives accessible and productive.

Cathedral_and_Archivo_de_Indias_-_SevilleWhile the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla remains the primary destination for scholars working on projects relating the Spain’s colonial empire, the collections infrequently receive the attention they deserve from historians north of the Río Grande. This, despite Kristen Block and Jenny Shaw’s proclamation that, “colonial records in the Spanish archives reveal a wealth of reportage” about moments in early American history for which few extant documents remain elsewhere.[1] In fact, Block and Shaw’s 2011 article, “Subjects without an Empire: The Irish in the Early Modern Caribbean,” forces a reconsideration of the contours of Anglo-Irish relations in the early Caribbean by reading Spanish and English language documents side-by-side. Uncovering the lived experience of Don Juan Morfa—an Irish translator for the governor of Santo Domingo and linchpin in the defense of the island against Cromwell’s Western Design—depended on reading documents housed in the AGI. Continue reading

Guest Post: Native American History within #VastEarlyAmerica

Today’s guest post comes from Steven J. Peach, who will graduate in May 2016 with a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. (Congrats, Steven!) His research examines Creek Indian politics, diplomacy, and power in early America. This is his first guest post for The Junto.

Image 1In 2015, Gordon Wood charged the William and Mary Quarterly with no longer publishing scholarship fixed “exclusively” on the “origins” of the United States. Restricting early America’s geography to the modern limits of the U.S., he argued that articles like that on sixteenth-century Castile make the “boundaries” of early America “mushy.” Not so fast, responded Joshua Piker, the Quarterly’s editor. A few months ago, he refuted Wood by saying that the Quarterly never focused solely on U.S. origins.  (Piker’s refutation is dazzling; if you have not read it, you should!) Piker went on to say that early Americanists must abandon any “misleading coherence or … artificial simplicity” to define the field. Instead, they ought to “get lost” in the “vastness” of early America—or Karin Wulf’s #VastEarlyAmerica.[1] What spaces did early America encompass, then, and how can the field begin to sketch them? Native American history offers a path forward. Continue reading