The Week in Early American History

TWEAHThe past two weeks have been busy ones in Early American History! Continue reading

Guest Post: The Value of Storytelling

We’re thrilled to welcome as our latest guest poster, Casey Schmitt. Casey is a PhD candidate in History at the College of William & Mary, where she is writing a dissertation on the Iberian roots of seventeenth-century Anglo-American slave law under the supervision of Brett Rushforth. Casey holds an MA in history from the University of Utah, where she wrote an excellent thesis on the British Asiento, illicit trade, and the limits of empire in the eighteenth-century Caribbean. Her teaching and research interests center on the inter-imperial nature of the early modern Americas.

As a newly-minted ABD embarking on my first stab at teaching the early American history survey, I find myself buried beneath my own excitement for the material. No one warned me that the biggest obstacle to designing a course would be curbing my own unrelenting enthusiasm. Perhaps no part of that enthusiasm has proven more damaging to my syllabus than my passion for storytelling. Specifically, I approached teaching the early America survey with a litany of historical works of fiction and non-fiction that I wanted to familiarize undergraduates with: 12 Years a Slave, Benito Cereno, Poor Richard’s Almanac, Letters From an American Farmer, among many, many other titles. Before too long I was looking at a weekly reading word count over 150 pages. Yikes. Continue reading

Guest Post: “A Display of Folly and Show”: Joseph Smith’s Impressions of Congress

Today’s guest poster, Spencer McBride, received his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2014 and is now a historian and documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers.  His research examines the politicization of clergymen during the American Revolution and in the early American republic.

JS uniformIn my work at The Joseph Smith Papers, I have recently been examining dozens of documents surrounding the trip Joseph Smith made to Washington D.C. in 1839. As I have prepared these documents for publication in one of the project’s future volumes, they have drawn my mind to the way men and women living in rural America during the nineteenth century perceived the federal government and what they thought occurred in its different branches. Though Smith’s experience in this regard is but one example, I think that it is a telling one. Continue reading

Guest Post: Thomas Jefferson and Public Historiography

I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest poster, Matthew Crow, a regular commenter here at The Junto, who received his PhD at UCLA in 2011 and now teaches at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York.

Bibliothèque_Sainte-Geneviève_1859In his compendium of global archival practices, Memoirs of Libraries, Edward Edwards developed a history of how various peoples had organized their relationship to their pasts. For Edwards, political emancipation in the wake of the great revolutions required broadening public availability of the historical documents archived by the state. Continue reading

Guest Post: Teaching and the Problem with Parties in the Early Republic

Mark Boonshoft is a PhD candidate at Ohio State University. His work focuses on colleges and academies, especially the networks forged in them, and their role in the formation of revolutionary political culture.

Boonshoft Flow ChartAs an undergraduate, I found the political history of the early republic to be fascinating. As a graduate student, I find teaching the subject to be utterly frustrating. This surprised me, though it shouldn’t have. I was already interested in early American history when I got to college. Most of my students don’t share that proclivity, to say the least.[1] Generally, they assume that the policy debates of the founding era and beyond—especially about banks, internal improvements, and federalism—are downright dry. That said, our students live in an era of rampant partisanship and government paralysis, punctuated by politicians’ ill-conceived attempts to claim the legacy of ‘the founders.’ The emergence of American party politics is pretty relevant to our students’ lives. So with many of us gearing up to get back into the classroom, I thought this would be a good time to start a discussion about teaching the history of early national party formation. Continue reading

Guest Post: “George Whitefield at 300” Conference Recap

Jessica Parr received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012. Her research interests are on race and religion in the Early Modern British Atlantic. Her first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon is forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi (2015). She currently teaches at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. Here she recaps the recent “George Whitefield at 300” conference.

In 1740, during George Whitefield’s first visit to New England, Connecticut minister Reverend Daniel Wadsworth wrote in his diary: “met with the famous life of Whitefield: but what is it?”[1] Wadsworth’s comments no doubt reflected both the excitement and the unease that Whitefield’s visit provoked among New England clergy, who both looked to him as a man who could renew piety and New England, but also feared his potential for exacerbating existing religious tensions. Nonetheless, it is a poignant question, and one anyone who is familiar with “the Grand Itinerant” might ask. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Libraries in the Atlantic World” Conference Recap

Today’s guest poster, Aaron M. Brunmeier, recaps the recent conference in Liverpool, England. He is a Ph.D. student at Loyola University-Chicago, where he studies print culture, gender, and the public sphere in revolutionary New York City. He is the social media assistant for the Community Libraries Network.

g3library

Last week, I finished my minor field exams, lesson-planned for my substitute teacher, and then hopped on a plane headed toward Liverpool for a conference on library history. It was the first of three colloquia organized by the Community Libraries Network and funded by the AHRC. This colloquium, “Libraries in the Atlantic World,” brought scholars of different disciplines from all around the world to share their research and discuss the newest trends in the field at the University of Liverpool, 24-25 Jan. 2014.

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Guest Post: Sir James Wright and Jenny, his free “black servant”

Today’s guest poster is Greg Brooking (PhD, Georgia State University). His dissertation on Sir James Wright, royal governor of Georgia, is entitled, “‘My zeal for the real happiness of both Great Britain and the colonies’: The Conflicting Imperial Career of Sir James Wright.” He is the recipient of two fellowships from the David Library of the American Revolution and authored a chapter in General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South (University of South Carolina Press, 2012). He currently teaches at Kennesaw State University and Southern New Hampshire University. This is his first guest post for The Junto

I’ve just begun the arduous task of transforming my recently completed dissertation about colonial and revolutionary Georgia into a work worthy of an academic press. Part of this process, for me at least, has been to re-examine my notecards (actually an enormous Excel spreadsheet), seeking new gems, ideas, and angles. In so doing, I’ve rediscovered a tidbit that I want to further develop during the manuscript process and I humbly submit this post as a solicitation to the blog’s readers, seeking their varied and expert insights. Specifically, this tidbit relates to a caveat in the final will and testament of Sir James Wright (1716-1785), which calls for an annuity for his free “black servant,” Jenny. Continue reading

Guest Post: Working on The Papers of Francis Bernard

Christopher F. Minty (University of Stirling) recently completed his dissertation on the social and cultural origins of Loyalism in New York during the imperial crisis. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including the British Library, the Huntington Library, the David Library of the American Revolution, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Houghton Library at Harvard University. This is his second guest post for The Junto.

In early 2013, Michael D. Hattem offered some thoughts on his role as a Research Assistant on the Papers of Benjamin Franklin. Since then, a variety of other online databases have established themselves as essential go-to sources for students and scholars of colonial British America, the American Revolution and the early Republic. With the launch of Founders Online, it has complemented a stream of other online resources that have given us an unparalleled insight into the lives of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James and Dolley Madison, the Adams family as well as documentary histories of the ratification of the Constitution and, well, “People of the Founding Era.”  Continue reading

Guest Post: On the Anvil of Labor History in the Revolutionary Era

Today’s guest post comes from Peter Kotowski, a Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and a Ph.D. candidate at Loyola University Chicago.  His research uses the lived experiences of indentured servants to explore Pennsylvania’s development within the Atlantic economy and the extent to which the colony was “the best poor man’s country.”

BillySmith2In the introduction to their 2008 edited collection, Class Matters, Simon Middleton and Billy G. Smith make the bold proclamation that “as a mode of historical analysis of early North America and the Atlantic World, class is dead – or so it has been reported for the last two decades.”[1]  The subsequent collection of essays makes a convincing case that class is not, in fact, dead.  For Smith, this volume was merely a continuation of a decades-long commitment to class as a primary mode of analysis.  It was in the spirit of Smith’s work that dozens of scholars converged on the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in Philadelphia from November 7-9 for what was affectionately dubbed “Billyfest.”
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