Today’s guest post comes from Steven J. Peach, who will graduate in May 2016 with a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. (Congrats, Steven!) His research examines Creek Indian politics, diplomacy, and power in early America. This is his first guest post for The Junto.
In 2015, Gordon Wood charged the William and Mary Quarterly with no longer publishing scholarship fixed “exclusively” on the “origins” of the United States. Restricting early America’s geography to the modern limits of the U.S., he argued that articles like that on sixteenth-century Castile make the “boundaries” of early America “mushy.” Not so fast, responded Joshua Piker, the Quarterly’s editor. A few months ago, he refuted Wood by saying that the Quarterly never focused solely on U.S. origins. (Piker’s refutation is dazzling; if you have not read it, you should!) Piker went on to say that early Americanists must abandon any “misleading coherence or … artificial simplicity” to define the field. Instead, they ought to “get lost” in the “vastness” of early America—or Karin Wulf’s #VastEarlyAmerica. What spaces did early America encompass, then, and how can the field begin to sketch them? Native American history offers a path forward. Continue reading →
When most people think of European colonization in New England and New Netherland, we think in very terrestrial terms. This familiar narrative includes the fur and wampum trades, treaties and the negotiations over land, and conflicts such as the Pequot War, Kieft’s War, King Philip’s War, and so on. But Andrew Lipman, an assistant professor of history at Barnard College, flips this entire terrestrial story upon its head. He does this with one simple question: “What if we considered this contested region not just as a part of the continent but also as part of the ocean?” In doing so, Lipman recovers the astonishing maritime contexts of seventeenth-century America, where both Indigenous and European peoples encountered, collaborated with, and fought against one another on the water just as much as they did on the land. This, then, is the provocative beginning to Lipman’s Bancroft Prize-winningThe Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast (Yale University Press, 2015).Continue reading →
When most people think about the American Revolution and its cast of characters, names like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington spring to mind. On the British side, people might think of John André, Benedict Arnold, John Burgoyne, and, sometimes, Lord Dunmore. Though some of these people appear in Kathleen DuVal’s latest book, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, most of DuVal’s narrative centers around people who seldom feature in books or articles on the American Revolution. It is not the American Revolution that most people know. Indeed, “The American Revolution on the Gulf Coast,” DuVal writes, “is a story without minutemen, without founding fathers, without rebels. It reveals a different war with unexpected participants, forgotten outcomes, and surprising winners and losers.” Continue reading →
Consider the sixth-grader of 1907. Gertrude F. Greene’s syllabus passed over Plato, sidelined Scottish ballads, and resisted the Alaskan derring-do of The Fur-Seal’s Tooth. At the top of her reading list—first to devour on a snowy winter break from the old Belcher School—she ranked Francis Parkman’s Oregon Trail (1849). In under a century, Parkman had gone from cliffhanger to canon. Why? What might students learn from a 23-year-old romantic historian’s rambles in the Indian country of 1846? Glints of Parkman’s early artistry shone through, but only when you shook up the story a bit. His sketch of life with the Oglala Sioux melded ethnography and emotion, sense and sensation. His Oregon Trail had been greatly curated, edited, and revised in the retelling. And yet Ms. Greene’s sixth-graders missed out on the juicier bits. What Parkman saw (“a strange variety of characters”), what Parkman heard (“harsh and guttaral” dialects), and what Parkman ate (buffalo, fish, dog) on the road filled his private journals, first made available to readers in the 1940s. There, stashed away in the “no-filter” notebooks that Parkman used to piece together his first blockbuster, lay the real adventure. Continue reading →
Pratt must be paid. There was a route to examine one last time, and three shirts to stuff into a knapsack bulging with flannels and history books, powder and shot. The Berkshire Hills trip was a rush job; he needed to return for graduation in late August, 1844. Into the knapsack went a 4” x 2½” dusky-green journal, with shorthand notes in pencil. After a boyhood spent hunting and riding bareback on the Medford frontier, the blue-eyed Harvard senior, 20, knew how to pack for a research errand into the wilderness. Already, he boasted colorful adventures from past summer forays, fine-tuning the field skills that history professor Jared Sparks did not cover in class. Take July 1841: Scaling his first New Hampshire ravine, the rookie historian slipped and swung free, clawing air. As he “shuddered” and clung to the crag, a hard sheaf of pebbles fell, “clattering hundreds of feet” to the sunny gulf below.
On April 26, Columbia University’s American Studies and Early American History Seminars organized the symposium “Rethinking Land and Language: Dialogues in Early American and Indigenous Studies.” Divided into two roundtables dedicated to land and language, the symposium brought together an array of scholars to discuss how new perspectives in Native American studies might influence work being done across fields in early American history. This post will recap a few of the key themes that emerged from the symposium.* Continue reading →