This is the second post in a roundtable about research inspirations. You can read the first essay, a guest post by Whitney Barlow Robles, here.
My dissertation on food and war, which became my first book project on war and hunger, originated at a crossroads between panic and personal interests. I was a sophomore, taking a class on the American Revolution, and the professor was walking us through the process of writing a final paper by requiring a paragraph-long research proposal, followed later in the semester by an annotated bibliography. We were at the point in the semester where research proposals were nearly due, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I remember discussing my growing sense of panic at swim practice with a friend, and vacillating between this sense of anxiety, and pleasant anticipation of dinnertime. I swam for the team friendships, and the fact that even bad dining hall food tasted good after a hard workout. As I speculated about our dinner choices, my friend interrupted me, observed that I was obsessed with food, and suggested that I write about it for my history paper. Continue reading →
In summer 2010 I sat in the house furnished by Rhys Isaac in Colonial Williamsburg, and attempted to write my first dissertation chapter. I’d just finished my first research trip, to Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa, and was in the middle of my second, at the John D. Rockefeller Library. I was trying to follow advice I’d read to write as I researched. There was no Wi-Fi in the house, which was a curse and a blessing. I couldn’t get distracted, but I also did not have instantaneous access to articles and books, which meant I couldn’t check basic facts and chronologies, which, turns out, tend to be missing from your research! Continue reading →
Happy 280th birthday to President John Adams: lawyer, statesman, and…wine connoisseur? He began a crisp New England morning like today with a tankard of hard cider, but Adams’ years in Europe primed his palate for fine French wine. Continue reading →
A reconstruction of the skull of a 14-year-old girl that researchers have named “Jane.”
I have some initial thoughts on new reports of cannibalism at Jamestown, so I’ve cross-posted them from my personal blog.
So, funny story. When I first submitted my article on cannibalism and the Starving Time at Jamestown to the William and Mary Quarterly, the piece strongly argued against any occurrence of cannibalism. When I got my readers’ reports back, Editor Chris Grasso pointed out that I didn’t really have the evidence to convincingly make that claim. He said that he’d accept the article only if I agreed to temper the argument—which was really fine with me because the main point of the essay was to ask why the stories of cannibalism mattered, not to argue for or against the existence of cannibalism in colonial Virginia. Continue reading →
Congratulations, readers: you’ve made it to spring break! This post is written for everyone about to embark on short archival research trips (but that doesn’t mean you have to skip over it if you’re stuck in one place). I’ve always found that while I’m researching, it’s nice to have an idea of what food places are nearby for those lunchtime moments when I emerge, ravenous, from manuscript rooms around the country. Continue reading →
First things first: have you been to Savannah? It’s lovely, and you should go immediately if you haven’t made it there yet. It’s eminently walkable, and everywhere you ramble you find pretty squares with statues, intersecting streets overhung with Spanish moss.
The walkability factor helped a lot, as there were quite a lot of great panels to capture my attention during the run of the conference; it was nice to be able to pop out for lunch, and to get back (mostly) in time for afternoon panels. Continue reading →