From Platform to Publisher: Facebook, the Early American Open Press, and Alex Jones

Yesterday, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify removed the content of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from their services. Jones has gained notoriety for propagating outrageous falsehoods on topics including vaccines, school shootings, and uh, *checks notes* space vampires. These decisions to remove Jones’s content come amid a growing public conversation about the extent to which technology and social media companies should act as stewards of truth. Facebook in particular has come under scrutiny for its role in spreading “fake news” in American politics and anti-Muslim propaganda in Sri Lanka, as well as CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of Holocaust deniers’ ability to share verifiably false content on the site. Continue reading

Review: Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History, New Edition

Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History: New Edition (New York: New York University Press, 2018).

A few years ago, I found myself speaking briefly to a graduate student in another discipline who happened to share both my first and last names. He politely asked what I studied, and I vaguely explained that my dissertation related to the Age of Revolutions. Other Jordan considered this for a moment, and then asked “So what causes revolutions?” I’m embarrassed to say that this most straightforward of questions left me a bit flat footed. I could tell him what several historians thought about the particular revolutions they studied, but “revolutions” more generally? That was a big question. I think I muttered something about Arendt (as you do) and excused myself. Continue reading

Q&A with Wim Klooster, author of Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History, 2nd Edition

9781479857173_fullWhen Wim Klooster’s Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History was published in 2009, it was one of the first monographs to bring together the American, French, Haitian, and Spanish American revolutions in a single English-language volume. Revolutions in the Atlantic World quickly became a seminal text, finding its way on many Atlantic history syllabi, comprehensive exam reading lists, and on researchers’ shelves. In January 2018, New York University Press released a second edition that incorporates historiography from the past nine years, including scholarship on indigenous peoples and privateers. Tomorrow, Jordan Taylor will have his review of this second edition. Today, The Junto’s Julia M. Gossard interviews Klooster about the book’s second edition, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Revolutions.

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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

Golden Hill as Historical Historical Fiction

goldenhillFrancis Spufford’s historical novel Golden Hill introduces us to mid-eighteenth century New York City through the eyes of a London visitor named Richard Smith. For Smith, it’s a strange place. In the book’s first scene, as Tom discussed yesterday, he exchanges some of his own currency for local money. But he is baffled to receive an irregular stack of paper from around the continent divided into various denominations.

I immediately empathized. Only a few days before I began the novel, I had been trying to untangle what I had initially thought would be a fairly straightforward problem for an article manuscript involving colonial wage rates and commodity prices. But I had quickly found myself waist-deep in conversion charts, glossaries, and historical data about the foreign, colonial, and metropolitan currencies that circulated in eighteenth-century Anglo-America. Old tenor, new tenor, pounds, shillings, pence, halfjoes, Spanish dollars—it was a world of currency only slightly less confusing than blockchain. Continue reading

Wonder and Historical Knowledge: Reflections from the Omohundro Institute Annual Conference

Today’s guest post is by Lindsay Chervinsky, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis in January 2017 and her book, The President’s Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2019.

View of the sunset from Jamestown, June 16, 2018

Over the weekend of June 14-17, historians of Early America gathered in Williamsburg, Virginia to attend the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture’s annual conference and to celebrate the OI’s 75th anniversary. While I always come away from this conference feeling inspired, this year I returned home thinking about audience, historical knowledge, and wonder.

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Review: Craig Bruce Smith, American Honor

Craig Bruce Smith, American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals during the Revolutionary Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018).

9781469638836In American Honor, Craig Bruce Smith places morals, virtue, and ethics at the center of the American Revolution. Smith argues that in the late-colonial period, understandings of honor transformed. Instead of something hereditable, honor became based on merit. That “ethical transformation” helped bring about the Revolution. Independence then allowed Americans to realize its potential. In a phrase, you might say the American Revolution was “made on honor, sold on merit.”[1] Continue reading

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