Decoding Diplomacy

JA Steady 2

John Adams, Codename: “Steady”

Ciphers, codes, and keys—plus reflections on how to encrypt sensitive developments in early American diplomacy—run through the papers of two generations in the Adams family’s saga of public service. So how did they use secrecy in statecraft? Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHSavor summer’s finale weekend with an extra side of early American history news. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWe hope you will forgive the spottiness of TWEAH recently, but it is likely to be a regular occurrence during the summer months. Nevertheless, here are some links for you this Independence Day holiday weekend… Continue reading

The JuntoCast, Episode 8: Thomas Paine and “Common Sense”

The JuntoCastIn this month’s episode, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and Ben Park discuss Thomas Paine, including reconsidering the importance of his most famous work, “Common Sense,” his life as an eighteenth-century transatlantic radical, and his legacy today compared to that of the other “founders.”

You can click here to listen to the mp3 in a new window or right-click to download and save for later. You can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. We would greatly appreciate it if our listeners could take a moment to rate or, better yet, review the podcast in iTunes. As always, any and all feedback from our listeners is greatly welcomed and appreciated.

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The Founders, the Tea Party, and the Historical Wing of the “Conservative Entertainment Complex”

Following the recent election, much has been made of the alternative reality created by the “conservative entertainment complex.” However, conservative media has not only created its own contemporary reality; it has also created its own historical reality, through what one might call the historical wing of the conservative entertainment complex.

In recent years, men like David Barton, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck, among numerous others, have written a number of books on eighteenth-century figures and events. But though they claim to be getting their principles directly from “the founders,” what they are really doing is giving their principles to the founders and the eighteenth century, more generally. This revisionism, promoted by conservative think tanks, was lapped up by hardcore conservatives and perhaps no group of people has been a more receptive audience than those who identify themselves as supporters of the Tea Party. Continue reading

Sympathy for the Founders

One day soon, someone will write the history of the bankers, fund managers, lawyers and accountants who helped make our present financial crisis. When they do, they’ll need to be careful not to lose sight of the far larger group of people – really, everyone – who were also part of that process, the suffering they endured and the resistance they enacted. It would need to be a cultural, intellectual, legal, political, and social history that gave account not only of how the financial elite thought and acted, but how that thought and action was shaped by structures and events. It would see the world reflected in their eyes. In that moment, it might show a little sympathy.

That’s how I feel about my own project, a history of power and ideology among American elites in the 1780s. The first question that troubles me – why study elites? – tends to dissolve into a slightly different one – what does it mean to study elites? To be meaningful it has to be a way of studying how historical change happens and how the conditions of life are produced. Elites are both separate and inseparable from the rest of society, linked in a complex, ambivalent embrace that constitutes a kind of class struggle. And class struggle is history in action.

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