The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWelcome to another exciting week in early American history, where all the women are strong, all the men are strong, all the children are strong, and all the historians are above average. This week, we can report: Continue reading

Promised Land

Henry_Lewis_-_Saint_Louis_in_1846

“Saint Louis in 1846”
Henry Lewis

This week, The Junto spoke with Lea VanderVelde, the Josephine R. Witte Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law, a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies, and principal investigator of the Law of the Antebellum Frontier project, which “seeks to digitally analyze the legal and economic mechanisms at work on the American frontier in the early 1800s.” She kindly took our questions on her work-in-progress, and why digital research transforms the early American legal history of how the West was run. Continue reading

Jay Gitlin’s French Frontier

Jay Gitlin, The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders, and American Expansion. The Lamar Series in Western History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Jay Gitlin"Bourgeois Frontier" begins this history of the francophone West with geologist William Keating, on an 1823 scientific expedition to the United States’s western frontier, marveling at the number of French speakers he encountered in the Mississippi basin. Who were these people? And why were so many of them still around, six decades after the Seven Years’ War had supposedly terminated the French presence in North America? The Bourgeois Frontier aims to answer these questions, and to explain why—two centuries later—Americans remain as ignorant of these people as Keating had been. The result is a compelling account of the francophone towns that formed a crescent-shaped constellation along the western fringe of the early American republic. In eight chapters of buoyant prose chronicling the 1760s through the Civil War, Gitlin shows how the French Creoles who inhabited these towns adjusted and adapted as American expansion changed their world. Continue reading

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