My forthcoming book, Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650-1750: Steering Toward England, uses sexual misconduct trials to examine the ways in which the growing Anglicization of the New England colonies played a role in the daily lives of ordinary colonists. Such trials may seem an unusual source base for studying broader political change, but their frequency and consistency allowed me to track the often subtle shifts toward more Anglicized legal systems. Likewise, both men and women were routinely charged with sexual misconduct, which allowed me to examine these shifts from male and female perspectives. This is the story of two widows in Essex County, Massachusetts, and their very different experiences with the Puritan dominated legal system of the seventeenth century and the Anglicized legal system of the eighteenth century.
Social networks are having a moment in history. They are another approach to understanding how people came together either via proximity, social status, values, or goals, with the analytical focus on what serves as the bond in the relationship(s). Social theorists have ascribed a 4-part process which entails a) similar people coming together, b) influence within these groups making its members more alike, c) people winding up in the same place, and d) shared space making people more alike. In short, networks are primarily about building consensus. For historians, networks are “messy,” “fragile,” “fluid,” and disregard geographic boundaries. Continue reading →
Lois Green Carr was a pioneer in both social history and women’s history. Originally from an upper-class family from Massachusetts, Carr made her greatest impact in studying the history of women from the seventeenth-century Chesapeake. Carr’s mother, Constance McLaughlin Green, was a well-respected historian, who had received her PhD from Yale University. Carr attended Swarthmore College before enrolling in the graduate program at Harvard in 1943. Along the way, life happened. She got married in 1946, moved with her husband to New York in 1947, and had a child in 1952. In 1956, she accepted a job as a junior archivist at the Maryland Hall of Records. Family responsibilities and then difficulties at the end of the decade had rendered her progress toward completing her PhD quite slow. In fact, by that point, she said, “I had done no work for years on my PhD dissertation because I could not get to New England for needed research.” Her solution was to switch her research focus to Maryland and find an advisor willing to take her on, which she did. In 1961, Bernard Bailyn became her advisor and by 1968 she had finally graduated, twenty-five years after starting graduate school. By the end of 1967, she had taken a job as the historian for the St. Mary’s City Commission. a post she would hold for nearly five decades. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, we hosted a guest post from Vaughn Scribner on mermaids. Since sequels are all the rage in Hollywood, we are having him back for seconds.
Figure 1: Image from Gottfried’s Histora Antipodum oder Newe Welt (1631). Image after de Bry. Accessed via ULB Sachsen-Anhalt.
Well, here we go again. Just when I thought I had figured out the riddle of Captain John Smith’s alleged seventeenth-century mermaid sighting, research threw me a curve ball. A quick recap: in a recent Junto post, I argued that Alexandre Dumas added a brief (supposedly legitimate) story of Smith meeting a mermaid into his fictional 1849 adventure tale. Dumas’ fabricated account, I demonstrated, steadily gained a life of its own as subsequent historians cited it as fact. I had solved the “Curious Case of John Smith, a Green-Haired Mermaid, and Alexandre Dumas.” Or so I thought. Continue reading →
Abigail Swingen is an Assistant Professor of History at Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX). She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. She specializes in the Early Modern British Atlantic Political Economy. Competing Visions of Empire is her first book and was reviewed here yesterday. The following is part of our (relatively) new tradition of reviewing a book and then offering a Q & A with the author the following day. [NB: You can find my review from yesterday here.] Continue reading →
There have been some fantastic new contributions of late that explore connections between slavery, economics, and empire. In his 2008 analysis of the American political economy, economic historian Gavin Wright concluded that the dependence on slave labor came not because of any institutional efficiency on the part of plantations, but rather, that no other form of coerced labor could have been made to meet the labor demands. Sven Beckart’s Bancroft Prize-winning book, Empire of Cotton, analyzes connections between cotton, and the slave labor behind it, and the rise of modern capitalism. Ed Baptist’s book, The Half Has Never Been Told, explores slavery’s role in the making of American capitalism.
Casey Schmitt is a PhD candidate in History at the College of William & Mary, where she is writing a dissertation on the Iberian roots of seventeenth-century Anglo-American slave law. This is her second guest post, following her first on the value of storytelling and the use of audiobook primary sources in the classroom here.
A little over a year ago, I switched research interests from the study of eighteenth-century contraband trade between Jamaica and Cartagena de Indias to a comparative study of the codification of slave law in the greater Caribbean. Admittedly not too drastic of a change, I was nonetheless daunted by moving from a historiography containing a select number of significant works to a field where innumerable scholars have dedicated entire careers. Like any graduate student, I began working through the library stacks here at the College of William and Mary, seeking answers to what I thought would be easy questions: Were the legal regimes of European slave societies shaped by their interactions with other slave societies in the Caribbean? Were English slaveholding practices modeled off of successful Portuguese or Spanish examples? Why were there so many institutionalized efforts to codify slave law in the seventeenth century and did these separate legal dialogues unfold in conversation with one another? As you can probably guess, none of these questions have proven as easy to answer as I thought. Continue reading →