Reading the Field from a Book: Some Thoughts on Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution

Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding is, to put it simply, an important book. It is perhaps, the most important book on the Revolution in almost a decade. Yet, at the same time, its argument, methodology, and importance are indicative of (one might say, testament to) the long-standing stasis in which Revolution political studies has been mired for a very long time. This post is less reviewing the book itself than exploring its relationship with its historiographical context regarding political studies of the Revolution, particularly, its origins and causes.[1] Continue reading

A Junto Birthday Party: Whitefield at 300 Roundtable

Today’s guest poster, Thomas S. Kidd, is professor of history at Baylor University and the author, most recently, of George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

A Long Afterlife (Jessica Parr)

george-whitefield-2-sizedThose familiar with the first great awakening will undoubtedly recognize George Whitefield as a key figure of eighteenth century evangelical culture in Britain and its American colonies. Like many associated with the Methodist movement in Whitefield’s time, the prolific preacher and publisher saw himself as an Anglican in discussion with the Church of England about reform and an allowance for a broader religious experience. However, his theology, the new birth doctrine, the gathered church, etc., all alienated Whitefield from the Anglican hierarchy within the first few years of his missionary career.

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The Story of “Evacuation Day”

A century after the end of the War for Independence, New Yorkers continued to celebrate a holiday known as “Evacuation Day,” commemorating the leaving of the last British troops from New York City on November 25, 1783. It marked the end of a seven-year occupation by the British army who used the city as the headquarters for its North American operations during the war. But it also marked the beginning of a holiday that would be enthusiastically celebrated by New Yorkers for a century to come. On this anniversary, I offer the following narrative account of a day that played a large role in the city’s historical memory of the Revolution for more than a century, but was eventually displaced when it became incompatible with contemporary circumstances. Continue reading

George Robert Twelves Hewes and the Politics of Historical Pedagogy

How does an ordinary person win a place in history?

Such is the line that Alfred Young opened his classic The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). In a way, the phrase captures much of his overall scholarship. Other contributions to this roundtable have/will cover(ed) how he did this in his influential books, essays, and edited collection. In my post, I want to focus on how he translated his approach into a work that is probably read more than any of his other books. Indeed, Shoemaker and the Tea Party is a popular book in the classroom, both undergrad and graduate, since it tells a fascinating tale with an important message.  Continue reading

Guest Post: Reclaiming a Buried Past: Slavery, Memory, Public History, and Portsmouth’s African Burying Ground

Jessica Parr received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012. Her research interests are 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. This is her second guest post for The Junto.

It was a scene that has been repeated in several American cities. In 2003, during an infrastructure project, 13 coffins containing unidentified human remains were found in Portsmouth, NH. Eight of the remains were exhumed for examination and confirmed as being of African descent, and later as part of a 1705 African Burying Ground, once on the city’s outskirts. As Portsmouth expanded, burying ground was built over and largely forgotten. Five additional sets of remains were found in 2008 during an archaeological dig on the site. Experts believe that 200 or more burials could have taken place in this 1705 African Burying Ground.[1]  Continue reading

Maryland Football and Public Memory of the War of 1812

Screen-shot-2014-09-09-at-11.36.16-AMEarlier this week, the University of Maryland and their athletic uniform supplier, Under Armour, announced that the university’s football team “will wear football uniforms inspired by the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ when it hosts West Virginia at Byrd Stadium” tomorrow, September 13.[1] The game will be played exactly 200 years to the day after Francis Scott Key penned “Defence of Fort McHenry,” a poem later set to music and adopted as the national anthem of the United States, which helped ensure that the all too oft-forgotten War of 1812 would retain some place in America’s collective memory. Continue reading

Guest Post: Seneca Village Memory: The Problem of Forgetting

Today’s guest post comes from Alexander Manevitz (@historicities), a Ph.D. candidate in History at New York University.

Detail from Egbert Viele’s 1856 topographical survey of the area to become Central Park, which shows some of the buildings and gardens of Seneca Village just before its destruction. When I started my doctoral program, “memory studies” struck me as more of a trend than a field. Something everyone talked about doing but couldn’t really define. After all, isn’t all history sort of a study of memories and how they’re made and used? Well, as with all things trendy, I was late to the party.[1] My first year of graduate school, I read Michele-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and David Blight’s Race and Reunion within a few weeks of one another, and I realized how wrong I’d been, and my interest has only grown from there.[2] I have since turned to questions of memory and amnesia in my own scholarship.

My work focuses on Seneca Village, a once-vibrant community in upper Manhattan where community activism and urban development collided when the city evicted the residents to clear land for Central Park in 1857. Despite its significant role in the development of African-American social activism in the early republic and its place in relation to one of the young nation’s largest urban development projects, Seneca Village has been almost entirely forgotten in popular and scholarly memory.[3]

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Varieties of Heritage Interpretation

WashingtonMemorialChapelOver the last few days, I’ve joined tours of several historic sites around Philadelphia. It’s common for me to visit historic sites, of course, but these tours are different.

For once, I’m doing my best to act and perhaps think like a normal tourist. I’m seeking out the most mainstream experiences instead of trying to strike out alone. (“Tickets for the one o’clock trolley tour, please! And where’s your gift shop?”) Not coincidentally, I’m also visiting these sites in rapid succession, as if I were a vacationer and not a local resident. It’s been a lot of fun.

It has also tested one of my casual assumptions about these places.

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The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWell, technically, this will be the last two weeks in early American history since we missed last Sunday. Let’s get to it: Continue reading

What The Oatmeal Missed

NB: This post was originally published in 2013.

Oatmeal imageWhen did you realize Christopher Columbus was a jerk?[1]

I’m not sure if I actually received the “traditional,” Samuel Eliot Morrison and Daniel Boorstin-inflected education on Columbus, during my child and young adulthood.[2] I remember that my high school history course (c. the early 2000s) sped through Columbus and discussed a bit about his bad human rights record. My excellent college-level history courses, of course, provided the standard explaination, found in virtually every modern textbook of repute, of the Columbian Exchange unleashed by early European exploration and conquests in the Americas.[3] I imbibed, during my childhood, the general story about Columbus in American culture—that “he sailed the ocean blue in 1492” and “discovered” America—but, if there were any lies my teachers told me, it certainly wasn’t about the earliest encounters between Native Americans and Europeans in the Caribbean.[4]

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