Damming Fish and Indians: Starvation and Dispossession in Colonial Massachusetts

Today’s post in the Roundtable on Food and Hunger in Vast Early America is by Zachary M. Bennett, who is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Connecticut College this autumn. He is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. His dissertation, “Flowing Power: Rivers, Energy, and the Making of New England,” examines the political ecology of waterpower before the industrial revolution.

Compared to other Native Americans in southern New England, the Ninnimissinuok community of Natick, Massachusetts seemed to have secure footing going into the eighteenth century. Located only fifteen miles outside of Boston on the Charles River, Natick was the largest community of Native American converts to Christianity—or “Praying Indians”—in mainland New England with a population exceeding two hundred persons. These Praying Indians owned their land in corporation to safeguard their enclave against land hungry colonists. To passersby, Natick residents farmed like their English neighbors, dressed like them, and even worshipped like them too. Yet, in contrast to their English neighbors, this community steadily declined over the course of the eighteenth century. Continue reading

Roundtable: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

Dams that powered grain mills but choked off fish migrations. Cassava bread that replaced wheat. A breakfast that turned into an ambush. The lenses of food and scarcity can transform our views of familiar places in early American history—Massachusetts, Virginia, the Caribbean. Continue reading

Q&A with Adrian Miller

Publicity photo with logo and sayingToday we’re featuring an interview with Adrian Miller, author of The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas. Miller is a food writer, attorney and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, CO. He is currently the executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches and, as such, is the first African American and the first layperson to hold that position. Miller previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and a senior policy analyst for Colorado governor Bill Ritter Jr. He has also been a board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Miller’s first book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time won the James Beard Foundation Award for Scholarship and Reference in 2014. Continue reading

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Anne Petersen of Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

“I went on to the doctorate because I didn’t want a ceiling on what I could achieve as a historian.” ~ Dr. Anne Petersen, Executive Director, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Anne PetersenWelcome back to the latest installment of “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America.” Today, we venture westward to California to feature a Q&A with Dr. Anne Petersen, the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Katy and Anne discuss the dynamic history interpretation taking place at SBTHP, which focuses on the diverse cultures and communities that have called Santa Barbara home for centuries. The pair also consider the complexities of navigating a “dual identity” in graduate school when choosing to pursue an array of history careers. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHThis has been a momentous week for early Americanists, with the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination to start the week and, especially for those of us in Massachusetts, the annual commemorations of Patriot’s Day this weekend. We have lots of great links for you below the fold!

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The Week in Early American History

TWEAHOn to the links! Continue reading

Review: The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the American South

The larderIn his concluding remarks to The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the American South, Ted Ownby hopes it “likely that this book will be one of the last collections of academic essays in which any scholars feel the need to explain or defend their choice of foodways as a topic” (363). Ownby and co-editors John T. Edge and Elizabeth Engelhardt have done as much as they can to realize this aspiration; their collection of essays is timely and scholarly rigorous. By assembling a group of scholars who concentrate “not on food but on foodways”—which comprise the production, preparation, or consumption of food—the editors have delved into questions about food studies and southern studies that bridge boundaries between different disciplines and historical time periods (364). Continue reading

Connecting the Past with the Present: A Trip to the Grocery Store

Sainsbury'sI think it’s important for historians to try to make connections with the present, not only because it more thoroughly engages students, but also because the past is not static. I haven’t always been great at explicitly drawing these parallels, but when the first day of the U.S. government shutdown coincided with my first Revolutionary America class, I sort of lost it. I thought to myself, “I have to go into class prepared to talk about how people in thirteen disparate colonies—some of whom disliked each other immensely—managed to get it together enough to rebel against Great Britain?” It’s no wonder I ended up showing a pop music video and comparing the Revolution to the bad breakup of a dysfunctional relationship.[1] I assume that a teensy bit of pandering to students’ tastes didn’t hurt, either. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHIt’s been an exciting week for history in the news. First, we learned that Karen Nipps has discovered buried treasure in Harvard’s Houghton Library–650 signatures of Boston citizens pledging to boycott British goods taxed by the Townshend Acts in 1767. The signatories include Paul Revere, John Wheatley (owner of Phillis), and several of Boston’s women.

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