The Week in Early American History

TWEAHIt’s hard to believe that the end of June is already upon us. This week features one of the biggest events of the Civil War sesquicentennial with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Look for more on that event (both 150 years ago and today) in next week’s edition. Meanwhile, on to this week’s links!

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The Language Question

LanguagesWhat is the current state of early American language training, what is its future, and why aren’t we more concerned?

A quick survey of more than a dozen graduate programs (all known for their strengths in colonial and early American history) reveals that three quarters of these departments require only one foreign language for early Americanists. To put this into context, the guidelines for European historians at all but one of these same institutions—guidelines often broken down by Early Modern, Western, and British subfields—require at least two foreign languages (yes, even in British history). Yet the issue is not simply the number of languages required of Americanists, but rather what constitutes proficiency. While language guidelines surely vary some from school to school, if the “proficiency” exams and reading courses across History programs even vaguely resemble ones that I’ve encountered, then even these lenient requirements themselves mean very little.

I suspect the numbers and realities of language training surprise very few. But even if we’re not surprised, maybe we should be a little worried. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWe begin this week with topography and geography, both literal and figurative. Continue reading

The Comprehensive Exam: A Reflection, with Qualifiers

BooksThe three or four minutes between when my qualifying exam ended and when I found out I had passed rank among the weirdest of my life. Not because I feared I had failed. In fact, immediately following the exam, which I took last Tuesday and which consisted solely of a two-hour oral interrogation, I encountered a calm and a confidence that I hadn’t known in months. Instead, the moment’s weirdness stemmed from a sort of whiplash. Ideas, arguments, and anxieties had been cramming themselves into every corner of my brain for over a year. Suddenly, they were free—unleashed and dissipated in the space a two-hour conversation. It felt more than a bit anticlimactic. A disappointing question seemed to cloud out any sense of accomplishment or pride: “That was it?” A week later, I’m feeling prouder—and still celebrating—but the question remains. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHIt’s that time of the week and it’s my turn to do the roundup, so let’s just get started with some links from the past week or soContinue reading