Teaching History Without Chronology

Most history courses follow a relatively simple formula: take a geographic space X, select a time span from A to B, add topics, and you’ve got yourself a course. It varies, of course, but works for both introductory courses, where you might survey the political, social, and cultural development of the people living in a geographic area, to upper-level courses with topical focuses. As a field whose primary concern is change over time, that formula makes sense. That consistency also means that students expect it from their high school and college history courses. And how else would you organize a history course?

I found out last semester.

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This Week in Early American History

TWEAHWelcome to this week’s news in Early American History! 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

Whither Early American Intellectual History?

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 21.34.40Last week, I attended the annual conference for the Society of United States Intellectual History, this year held in Irvine, CA. It was a fun time, and I learned enough and met enough people to consider the conference a success (and worth the 12 hour flight from London!). Yet one thing struck me the entire weekend, and was reinforced by Mark Peterson who gave words to my thoughts during his session response: why is there a paucity of work on early America within the recent surge of interest in US intellectual history? Or, to ask a different, but still related, question, why do so few historians of early America do work on intellectual history, or self-identify as intellectual historians? Continue reading

An Alt Canon of Early American Primary Texts?

davidwalkersappeal-uncdocsouthWe hear a lot about the “canon wars” of the 1980s and 1990s, when conservative (and neoconservative, and Straussian anti-anti-liberal, and pre-New-Left liberal) critics raised the hue and cry against relativizing multiculturalism, which was replacing War and Peace and The Scarlet Letter on college reading lists with just any random thing that wasn’t written by a wealthy straight white man. Or, if you prefer, when left-wing critics advanced the radical notion that women, homosexuals, minorities, and the poor are conscious human beings too. Or when cynical politicians and self-important idealists conspired together to undermine public confidence in higher education and the humanities. Or whatever.

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The Week in Early American History

TWEAHMail service was suspended in New England on Saturday (sadly, a possible harbinger of things to come), but a massive snowstorm (and the pain of shoveling) cannot stop the Junto’s week-in-review post.

It seems odd that the day is passing with relatively little fanfare, but today is actually the 250th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years’ War. A momentous occasion with enormous consequences (that were, as often happens, largely unforeseen at the time).

In any event, on with the links!

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The Abolitionists: A Recap

Garrison walkingOver the last three weeks, Jonathan Wilson and Ken Owen have reviewed the PBS documentary series The Abolitionists. Their reviews of part 1, part 2, and part 3 are already available for you to read. In this final post, Wilson and Owen will discuss the series as a whole, focusing especially on its value for history professors in the classroom.

Ken: Jonathan, I thought that we might start this discussion by looking at the producers’ public statements on what they were attempting with the series. For reference, there is a video entitled ‘Why We Made The Abolitionists‘, and an article ‘From The Executive Producer‘. For me, the most striking statement of the video is the opening assertion that no transformative moment in American history ‘stems from the actions of ordinary Americans as much as the abolitionists’. The producers then say that the five characters that they chose were deliberately intended to invoke different strands of the abolitionist movement. 

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The Abolitionists Go to War: Part 3

Harpers FerryThe final episode of The Abolitionists aired this week on PBS. The entire three-hour documentary is now available online here (Part 3 begins at the 1:40 mark). A full transcript is also available. Kenneth Owen and Jonathan Wilson previously discussed the first two episodes for The Junto. Today, we discuss the final hour.

Jonathan Wilson:

We’ve been fairly hard on The Abolitionists thus far, so I’m happy to say I thought the final chapter of the film is the strongest, both historiographically and dramatically. This episode reflects recent scholarship on slave rebellions, and on John Brown in particular, by meditating in a fairly sophisticated way on the uses and languages of violence.

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The Abolitionists Ride Again: Part 2

Douglass at antislavery meetingLast week, The Junto brought you a pair of responses to Part 1 of PBS’s new American Experience documentary on The Abolitionists. Kenneth Owen and Jonathan Wilson were cautiously critical of the first episode–particularly its treatment of religious belief and the activities of less famous abolitionists. Today, they weigh in again with brief responses to the second episode, which aired Tuesday night. (It is still available to watch online; skip ahead to Chapter 8 or the 50:40 mark.) Continue reading

The Abolitionists in Primetime: Two Responses

The Abolitionists on PBSThis week, PBS’s American Experience aired the first episode of The Abolitionists, a new three-part documentary. If you missed it, you can still watch it online. It is written and directed by Rob Rapley. The next two episodes will air on January 15 and 22.

The film profiles Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown, and Angelina Grimké. Part I covers the 1820s and 1830s, fitting it comfortably into The Junto’s portfolio. Kenneth Owen, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and Jonathan Wilson, a PhD candidate at Syracuse University, have a review.

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