The Long Game of U.S. Historiography: A Century of Competing Interpretations

The Temple Early Atlantic Seminar presents a day-long symposium

The Long Game of U.S. Historiography:

A Century of Competing Interpretations

Monday, March 23, 2020

9:00 ~ Introduction

9:15-10:45 ~ François Furstenberg, Johns Hopkins University

“Frederick Jackson Turner and the Physiographic Imagination”

Although Frederick Jackson Turner has long been associated with the field of Western history, his historical vision went far beyond the U.S. West. This paper explores Turner’s fascination with the discipline of “physiography,” a late nineteenth century science that combined geography, geology, forestry, minerology, glaciology, and climate sciences more broadly. Might we even see it as a precursor of today’s environmental history?

11-12:30 ~ Harvey Neptune, Temple University

“The Lost Work of Daniel J. Boorstin: rethinking anti-racist historiography on the Early Republic”

In the widely accepted story of the anti-racist turn in Founding Fathers’ scholarship, Winthrop Jordan’s White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro figures conventionally as the “landmark,” the big book that heroically led to the scholarly “demolition” of the Jeffersonian image.  The following essay offers an alternative account, one that recovers a rarely acknowledged piece of scholarly writing that critically exposed Jeffersonian white supremacy two decades before White Over Black.   Authored by Daniel J. Boorstin, this “lost” work first appeared in 1948 in a book titled The Lost World of
Thomas Jefferson
.

1:45-3:15 ~ Johann Neem, Western Washington University

“The Fate of Democracy in the Changing Fields of Early American Historiography”

Traditionally, historians took the nation-state for granted. Embracing a global perspective, new scholars of a vaster early America have moved beyond this perspective. Their new narratives, however, reinforce neoliberal ideas of society and politics. Emphasizing exchange across borders, many histories of early America question the benefits of democracy when contrasted against empires’ capacity to create multicultural global polities.

3:30-5:30pm ~ Roundtable Discussion: The Long Game of U.S. Historiography

François Furstenberg, Harvey Neptune, Johann Neem

Chair: Jessica Choppin Roney, Temple University

** All attendees should register and plan to read the three pre-circulated papers in advance. **

Register at

https://long-game-of-us-historiography.eventbrite.com

This event is generously co-sponsored by the Temple History Department and

the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

The 1619 Project and the Work of the Historian

Yesterday Princeton historian Sean Wilentz published his latest piece opposing the 1619 Project at The Atlantic. In it, Wilentz argues that he—along with the other historians who signed a letter to the editors of the New York Times Magazine questioning the Project’s conclusions—are taking issue as a “matter of facts” that were presented in the 1619 Project, in particular in the essay authored by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead editor for the magazine’s issue, and in the letter of response from the Magazine’s editor, Jack Silverstein.

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Q&A: Erik R. Seeman, Speaking with the Dead in Early America

picture-155-1357242582Today, the Junto features a Q&A with Erik R. Seeman about his new book, Speaking with the Dead in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press). Seeman is professor and chair of the history department at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and the author of three other books on religion and deathways in early America and the Atlantic World. He has also published many articles and essays, including in the William and Mary Quarterly, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of American History, and Church History. Continue reading

Q&A with Christopher Parsons

Today Rachel Herrmann interviews Christopher Parsons about his book, A Not-So-New World, which Carla Cevasco reviewed yesterday. Parsons is an interdisciplinary historian of science and the environment in the French Atlantic World. He has a longstanding interest in highlighting the contribution of indigenous peoples to the evolution of European and Euro-American environmental sciences. He has published articles in the William & Mary Quarterly, Environmental History, Early American Studies, and several edited collections. He tweets as @cm_parsons. 

 JUNTO: A Not-So-New World includes a discussion about fraught vocabulary, including the word sauvage and your decision to leave it untranslated. Early Americanists have been thinking for a while now about the language we use when we write about the past, but many of us are just starting to think about the French sources that inform your book. Could you say a little bit more about other word choices you made, and some of the words in translation that non-French Atlanticists might want to use with more care?

Christopher Parsons: Word choice is so important when you are working between subdisciplines such as the history of science and environmental history and across national historiographies such as, here, early Canada and early America. These are such powerful markers of investments in particular fields or the influence of particular works. I was conscious for example, of the Canadian preference for indigenous over native and the familiarity of early Americanists with terms such as the pays d’en haut.

Yet there were real intellectual reasons for leaving key terms untranslated as well. Continue reading

Review, Rebecca Brannon and Joseph Moore, eds. The Consequences of Loyalism

Brannon, Rebecca, and Joseph S. Moore, eds. The Consequences of Loyalism: Essays in Honor of Robert M. Calhoon. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2019).

If you are studying or researching Loyalists in some way, Robert M. Calhoon’s name is bound to come up. The “dean of American Loyalist studies,” as Joseph Moore terms him, is a well-esteemed scholar, writer, and mentor who has been the leading voice in American Loyalists historiography for decades.”[1] By engaging Loyalists in a multi-dimensional fashion, Calhoon’s work elucidated the now-incontrovertible inference: that Loyalists were multi-dimensional figures who were not too different from their revolutionary counterparts. In fact, the irrefutability of this idea is no doubt due in part to his work. In honor of him, Rebecca Brannon and Joseph Moore edited a Festschrift titled The Consequences of Loyalism. Continue reading

Puerto Rico and the Regional Caribbean

For early Americanists, the past two decades have seen an increase in scholarship connecting the early modern Caribbean to colonial North America. The Caribbean adds significant depth and dimension to discussions of race, slavery, diplomacy, capitalism, gender, and imperial competition by expanding the historiographies and archival resources common to early American scholarship. Yet, when a colleague stopped by my office asking for readings on seventeenth-century Puerto Rico to assign for a class, I drew a blank. Despite the excellent scholarship on colonial Puerto Rico written in Spanish, English-language scholarship focuses primarily on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[1]

What made this worse was that last Thursday was the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico. And, while the devastation and continued struggles on the island garner on-going media attention, the anniversary set me thinking about the place of the Caribbean in our scholarship and our teaching. It seems that, despite increased attention to the Caribbean within the field of vast early America, not all Caribbeans are created equal. And that unevenness demands our attention. Continue reading

Q&A with Wim Klooster, author of Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History, 2nd Edition

9781479857173_fullWhen Wim Klooster’s Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History was published in 2009, it was one of the first monographs to bring together the American, French, Haitian, and Spanish American revolutions in a single English-language volume. Revolutions in the Atlantic World quickly became a seminal text, finding its way on many Atlantic history syllabi, comprehensive exam reading lists, and on researchers’ shelves. In January 2018, New York University Press released a second edition that incorporates historiography from the past nine years, including scholarship on indigenous peoples and privateers. Tomorrow, Jordan Taylor will have his review of this second edition. Today, The Junto’s Julia M. Gossard interviews Klooster about the book’s second edition, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Revolutions.

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