The Global and the Hemispheric

Slavery's CapitalismIn their introduction to Slavery’s Capitalism, Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman write that the accumulation of scholarship about early American economic development necessitates “a fundamental rethinking of American history itself” (2). And, for someone who works on the seventeenth-century Caribbean, those words nonetheless resonated with debates very current in my own field of research. In 2011 – the same year that the conference that resulted in Slavery’s Capitalism was held – Latin Americanist John Tutino declared that, “We face a fundamental rethinking of the rise of capitalism” in response to the work of individuals like Dennis Flynn, Arturo Giráldez, and Kenneth Pomeranz. For Tutino, a global perspective on the development of capitalism amends the “enduring presumptions … that capitalism was Europe’s gift to the world,” and “historically antithetical” to places like Spanish America and the Caribbean.[1] Beckert and Rockman recognize in their description of Dale Tomich’s “Second Slavery” the importance of new scholarship in “weaving together transnational and imperial frameworks, the history of capitalism, and the study of slavery as a profit-seeking enterprise” (11).  Continue reading

Men of La Mancha

don-quixote-book-coverIn a certain village of vast early America, whose name I do not recall, a book fell open. Then another. And another. By 1860, many generations’ worth of American readers had imbibed the two-volume work of Spain’s early modern master, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote, or, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha (1605). Cervantes’ metafiction of a mad knight-errant, often hailed as the first Western novel, bustled and blistered with originality. Continue reading

Doing Digital History 2016: A Recap

Social_Network_Analysis_Visualization.pngThe NEH Doing Digital History Institute took place at the George Mason University School of Law, over two weeks in July. The primary instructors, Sharon Leon and Sheila Brennan conceptualized the Institute as a means to aide mid-career scholars to learn digital tools both to serve as “ambassadors” for DH, and also because digital tools can allow historians to ask new research questions of sources. [1] This Institute in part, answers calls made by William Cronon, Cameron Blevins, and others.[2] Even as the interest in Digital History grows, there still remains the challenge of accessing digital history training for those outside of elite research universities. There is also a need to expand the number of historians who are qualified to peer review digital projects and to assess them in tenure portfolios. [3] Continue reading

What Do Early Americanists Offer the Liberal Arts?—Part II

Yale College, 1807Last week, in the first part of this post, I argued that we tend to justify the liberal arts in two potentially contradictory ways. First, we assert that the liberal arts offer tools for citizenship. Second, we claim they point our way to human values that transcend any community. I argued that both of these justifications or approaches are necessary. I also suggested that early Americanists have not found it easy to explain what we contribute to the second approach.

Today, therefore, I am taking up the question I posed last week. Does early American scholarship offer anything distinctive to the liberal arts as a way of understanding humanity at large? Continue reading

Call for Papers: 2016-17 Missouri Regional Seminar on Early American History

The following link comes from the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy’s announcement. I was privileged to be a postdoc fellow with the Kinder Institute for the last two years and attended most of these MRSEAH meetings. They are phenomenal. Bonus: you get to hang out with our own Ken Owen!

Kinder LogoThe Kinder Institute is currently inviting submissions for presenters at the 2016-17 meetings of the Missouri Regional Seminar on Early American History (MRSEAH), which will be held on October 7, 2016, and April 21, 2017, in Columbia, MO, and on November 4, 2016, and February 17, 2017, in St. Louis. We welcome work on all aspects of early American history, broadly defined to extend throughout the Americas geographically and forward in time through the 19th century, and we are especially eager for submissions relating to political development, political thought, constitutionalism, and democratization. All MRSEAH submissions will also automatically be considered for the Kinder Institute’s Friday History Colloquium Series, held on campus during the academic year. Please visit the link below for complete instructions on submitting a proposal to present at the MRSEAH. Continue reading

“Early America” in The Open Syllabus Project

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 9.39.43 AMThe Open Syllabus Project (@opensyllabus) has collected “over 1 million syllabi” in the hopes of determining “how often texts are taught” and “what’s taught with what.” They hope their project will provide “a promising means of exploring the history of fields, curricular change, and differences in teaching across institutions, states, and countries.” The OSP has released a beta version of their “Syllabus Explorer,” which “makes curricula visible and navigable in ways that we think can become valuable to authors, teachers, researchers, administrators, publishers, and students.” Intrigued that the project claims to have catalogued the assigned readings from 460,760 History syllabi, I went through the list to find the most assigned works of early American history. Continue reading