Books in the Early U.S. Survey

booksI’m teaching two sections of the first half of the U.S. survey this semester (which goes to 1877 here at BYU). I taught two sections of the same last semester. After nearly a five-year break from the classroom as I researched and wrote a dissertation, it was fun to be back in the classroom: to work with students, take a step back from the specifics of my own research, reflect on the broader themes and developments of early American history,  and to update my lecture/discussion notes and outlines with the vast amounts of excellent scholarship produced over the course of that five-year period.

I’ve changed quite a bit in the content, focus, and structure of the course, and updated both assignments and class policies to be more student friendly (fewer lectures, more discussions, making more effective use of technology, and experimenting with unessays, to name just a few such changes). One thing that has not changed, however, is the amount of reading I assign. In addition to their textbook, students read widely from primary sources (this semester features significantly more sources by and about women, thanks in large part to Sara Damiano’s January post here at The Junto). They also read four scholarly books over the course of the semester.  Continue reading

Reading Race in Early America

1280px-brunias_cropped_detail-1024x738.jpgIn the past 10 years, we have seen an embarrassment of riches in scholarship that considers race in Early America (broadly understood). The list below is not exhaustive, but highlights some of the recent scholarship. Feel free to add your own favorite recent scholarship in the comments, and keep your eyes out next month, for our CFP for a roundtable on race in Early America.

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#WhatComesNext? Book Ideas for the Hamilton Lover in Your Life

HamiltonBooksWith Hamilton’s sweep at the Tonys last night, this year’s phenomenal tide of Hamilton-mania has hit the high-water mark. You’ve cheered each much-deserved award and accolade, you’ve memorized every word of the soundtrack, you’ve devoured the #Hamiltome. Perhaps you’ve kept up with professional historianswide range of responses to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster. Maybe you’re even one of the lucky few who’ve managed to score tickets to the show itself. But now, fans of the musical (and folks who are simply surrounded by them) might well find themselves asking, #WhatComesNext?

The Junto has the answer! Tomorrow afternoon, when you lose the daily ticket lottery yet again, why not start lookin’ for a mind at work? Grab a great history book and drown your sorrows in a flagon of sweet American Revolution knowledge. Here are some picks, creatively paired with favorite characters from the musical. Continue reading

Guest Post: [Enter Catchy Title Here]: Working towards a Book Title

Today’s guest poster, Christopher Minty, is a Bernard and Irene Schwartz Postdoctoral Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and Eugene Lang College at The New School for Liberal Arts. He received his PhD from the University of Stirling. His current book project examines the role of popular partisanship and its effects on New Yorkers’ allegiances on the eve of the American Revolution. He is also the author of two previous guest posts at The Junto, “The Problem of Loyalism before the American Revolution” and “Working on the Papers of Francis Bernard.”

UntitledI like eye-catching book titles. Who doesn’t, right? A good title should run of the tongue without too much fuss, while also championing the main argument(s) of the book. Recent books with titles that caught my eye include Benjamin Irvin’s Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty, Jessica Roney’s Governed by a Spirit of Opposition, and Albrecht Koschnik’s “Let a Common Interest Bind Us Together.” To be sure, there are others, and they are held together by a common thread: Despite looking at different periods with different objectives, each title offers a snapshot of what the reader can expect to find. Continue reading

The Problem with Big Books; Or, Alan Taylor’s Biggest Sin

[Headlines are supposed to draw readers, right?]

TaylorOne of the first things I did after finishing my dissertation a couple of months back (other than sleeping for an entire week, of course), was reading Alan Taylor’s latest tome, An Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1776-1832 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), which recently won the Pulitzer Prize. (One could argue that Taylor’s biggest sin, other than the one I’m about to discuss, is hogging all the major book awards.) As one would expect given Taylor’s track record, I was floored by the book’s exhaustive research and lyrical prose. I made a mental note that this would be a great book to assign to students. Now that I’m prepping for this fall, when I’ll be teaching a Jeffersonian America course, I gave the idea more serious consideration. However, I soon realized the biggest problem, which more seasoned teachers probably already know.

The book is just too big.

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The Kitten in the Bookcase

ruebooks

Our new kitten, Rue, sitting on top of a shelf in the “Slavery and Freedom” section of my library. This post was totally not just an excuse to use this photo.[1]

A few months ago my partner and I moved to a new apartment, for the first time since I began living in New York full-time. The best part of moving to me, for purely selfish reasons, was it created an opportunity to fully reorganize my library for the first time in three years. Our old apartment was much smaller than our current place which left my ever-growing doctoral candidate’s library relegated to one and a half bookshelves. This led to all kinds of organizational chaos and housecleaning headaches – with books tucked away in closets, stacked on desks, piled in corners.  Many times while writing I found myself looking for a book for a reference or citation say, for example, my copy of Joanne Freeman’s Affairs of Honor (which always seems to vanish) and I knew, for the life of me, that I had the book somewhere in the apartment, but had no way to even begin to find it without tearing the place apart. At the new apartment I have, thanks to my partner’s beneficence, the space to fully store my library in real bookcases and in some sort of proper organizational scheme.

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