Inspiration Roundtable: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Respect the Historiography

This is the second post in a roundtable about research inspirations. You can read the first essay, a guest post by Whitney Barlow Robles, here.

My dissertation on food and war, which became my first book project on war and hunger, originated at a crossroads between panic and personal interests. I was a sophomore, taking a class on the American Revolution, and the professor was walking us through the process of writing a final paper by requiring a paragraph-long research proposal, followed later in the semester by an annotated bibliography. We were at the point in the semester where research proposals were nearly due, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I remember discussing my growing sense of panic at swim practice with a friend, and vacillating between this sense of anxiety, and pleasant anticipation of dinnertime. I swam for the team friendships, and the fact that even bad dining hall food tasted good after a hard workout. As I speculated about our dinner choices, my friend interrupted me, observed that I was obsessed with food, and suggested that I write about it for my history paper. Continue reading

Inspiration Roundtable: Guest Post by Whitney Barlow Robles, “Naturalist in Historian’s Clothing”

This week at the Junto we are stepping back to talk about what inspired our research projects. From dissertations to first and second book projects, we will bring together a range of scholars to discuss the method, source, book, or lecture that got them started. Today, we have a guest post from Whitney Barlow Robles. Whitney is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Harvard, and her work spans early American history, history of science, and material culture studies. Her most recent publications include an essay about a 1755 earthquake that shook Boston, published in The New England Quarterly, and a chapter about flattened scientific specimens in the book The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766-1820. Her research has recently been supported by the American Historical Association, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Smithsonian Institution.

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I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or rather, a nature writer dressed as a historian. My dissertation reexamines the history of natural history in eighteenth-century America and the British Atlantic world by putting animals and natural specimens at the narrative center. It asks: What might historical documents, written or dried or submerged in alcohol, tell us about the actions of historical creatures? Why did animals remain, at some level, inscrutable? How did they escape the net, crash the experiment, shapeshift, fly away, or even help naturalists preserve specimens? And what might their role in early modern science tell us about the larger social and political projects powered by natural history? Liable to change over time, animals influenced the human world through their behavior, biology, physical traits, and, in the case of beasts like raccoons, perhaps even their own desires. Without understanding how animals circumscribed the project that sought to study them and thus set the terms for what humans could learn about nature, our view remains obscured. We can look through the microscope, but only with a cloudy lens. Continue reading

Guest Post: Did Squanto meet Pocahontas, and What Might they have Discussed?

This is a guest post by Dr E. M. Rose. Dr Rose is a Visiting Fellow, Department of History, Harvard University, and can be reached at emrose@fas.harvard.edu. These observations emerged during research Rose conducted in the spring of 2017 as Visiting Fellow at The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (OIEAHC)/Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation at Historic Jamestowne.

Two of the most famous Native Americans in early colonial history may well have met in London. Matoaka, nicknamed Pocahontas, who lived near the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, who greeted the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, were apparently living near other in the English capital in late 1616. Pocahontas and Squanto were both part of a small and complexly entwined commercial community of merchants, sea captains, and maritime entrepreneurs, whose ventures spanned the globe. The two Native Americans were kidnapped in America within a year of each other and eventually came to England, where they were welcomed enthusiastically.[1] Although there is, as yet, no documentation to prove that such a meeting took place, circumstantial evidence suggests that they met when they were staying only a few hundred yards down the street from each other in the homes of men with interlocking business interests. Although the histories of Jamestown and Plymouth are usually treated as separate chapters in most narratives of American history, they were closely linked. Continue reading

About that AHA Jobs Chart

"Advertised Job Openings Compared to Number of New History PhDs," American Historical AssociationThis week, the American Historical Association previewed a forthcoming report on the number of full-time history jobs. The post is entitled “Another Tough Year for the Academic Job Market in History”—which is a bit misleading, since it documents the continuation of a decade-long collapse. In the last hiring year (2016-2017), employers advertised only 289 tenure-track faculty positions and 212 other full-time jobs in the AHA Career Center. During that same year, to judge by the recent past, American universities probably granted more than 1,000 new doctorates in history.

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Module Conveners and the British Job Market

As an undergraduate, I didn’t take many large survey classes, and apart from one class, even the surveys that I took were taught by one faculty member. Larger U.S. universities do have more survey classes (I know, because I was a TA for several of them), but most that I taught on were also taught by one person. That model seems to be less usual in the United Kingdom, so I thought I’d talk about monster team-taught classes, the role of convener in bringing (and then holding) these classes together, and what you need to know about them if you’re considering  the British job market.[1] Continue reading

Call for New Blog Members at The Junto

Here at The Junto, a group blog of early American historians, we’re looking for new voices to expand our coverage of this exciting field. We are seeking new members to further diversify the content of the blog and join our community of like-minded friends and scholars. New members commit to posting at least six times a year, and to helping with the blog’s administration. All Juntoists create and edit their own posts, solicit guest posts, organize interviews, reviews, and roundtables, and shape the direction of the blog. While unpaid, joining the Junto is a terrific opportunity to develop your public profile as a scholar and engage in an online intellectual community. Continue reading

Guest Post: Recap of Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities Symposium

Ravynn Stringfield is an MA/PhD student in American Studies at the College of William & Mary. Herwork considers representation of Blackness in comics and graphic novels through literary and historical lens, and though she hesitates to label herself a DHer, you can find her blogging her grad school experience on her site, Black Girl Does Grad School.

fullsizeoutput_45dI got involved with Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities Symposium (
#RMDHatWM or RMDH) by accident. When I first arrived at William & Mary as a new graduate student in 2016, unsure of my label of “Digital Humanities scholar,” I fell into Liz Losh’s Equality Lab. The hot topic at the first few meetings was the symposium. As it turned out, attending this conference addressed all the concerns I have about the Academy, the role of scholarship as activism, and how I fit into the Digital Humanities (DH) world.

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