Spring Reads

Spring_panel_from_the_Four_Seasons_leaded-glass_window_by_Louis_Comfort_TiffanyHere’s our seasonal roundup of new and forthcoming titles. Share your finds below!  Continue reading

Guest Post: Bastard out of Nevis: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”

We are pleased to feature a guest post from Benjamin Carp (@bencarp), the Daniel M. Lyons Professor of American History at Brooklyn College, CUNY. Carp is the author of both Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America and Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution.

“I want the historians to respect this.” –Lin-Manuel Miranda, according to Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton, by John Trumbull (after painting by Giuseppe Ceracchi, 1801); National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Gift of Henry Cabot Lodge

In the lobby of the Public Theater, two statues flanked the doorway—the likenesses of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr stretched out their arms and aimed their dueling pistols at one another, and it was hard not to feel as if I was standing in the middle. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, wrote the musical Hamilton and stars in the title role. He portrays the first Secretary of the Treasury as a “bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman” and an immigrant striver made good; throughout his career, Hamilton is arrogant about his talents but perpetually insecure about his place. As told by Miranda, Hamilton is both self-made and self-unmade, wry and seductive and yet constantly raging against anyone who might hold him back. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHOn to the links! Continue reading

Making the Adams Papers

acornNearly a quarter of a million manuscript pages, and almost fifty volumes to show for it: As we mark the 60th anniversary of production at the Adams Papers editorial project, here’s an inside look at our process, from manuscript to volume. Continue reading

Notes on Thompson, Arendt, and Revolutionary Violence

In the first episode of HBO’s John Adams miniseries there’s a memorable scene (NB: it includes nudity) in which Adams is present at the tarring and feathering of a customs officer at Boston harbour. The purpose of the scene was to frame Adams as an outsider whose firm principles prevent him from ever being an organic leader of the American people—a theme that runs throughout the series. But it also does something else, which is to acknowledge early on that the American Revolution was an affair of violence. In a particularly poignant moment of the scene (2.02-2.07 in the clip), the director even chose to portray slaves in chains, looking on silently at the anger of the American mob. That is, he chose to remind us that violence in colonial and revolutionary America wasn’t just momentary and spectacular, but also pervasive and structural.[1] Continue reading

The JuntoCast, Episode 9: The Early American Presidency

The JuntoCastIn honor of President’s Day, this month’s episode features Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers discussing issues related to the development of the Presidency in the early republic, including the initial defining of the office by Federalists and John Adams’ and Thomas Jefferson’s challenges in navigating that office, as well as the role of the Presidency in public memory. Continue reading

Manco Capac and the Global American Founding

Manco Capac Grosvenor PrintsEveryone’s thinking more globally these days, historians included. But constructing a historical imagination that encompasses the whole planet isn’t only a project of the twenty-first century. The American Revolution took place in an age of global exploration, commerce, and empire. When people wrote and thought about the new nation’s founding, they didn’t look just to Europe and the classical world for connections and comparisons, but to Asia and South America as well. Writers were eager to show that the context in which they understood American events was a global one. Take for example the career of Manco Capac, founding father of the Inca kingdom of Cuzco. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHLast week, we heard the news that Mitch Daniels, formerly governor of Indiana and now president of Purdue University, apparently tried to keep “terrible anti-American academic” Howard Zinn’s People’s History out of Indiana’s schools and universities. This week, Indiana University’s Carl Weinberg revealed how he actually used Zinn’s text in a training course for Indiana high school teachers. Continue reading

Art & Soul

Great egret

“Great Egret,” John James Audubon

I’ve always thought that John Adams knew the enduring value of a good museum trip, and the power of art to sharpen the mind while refreshing a work-weary soul. How else would he have known to share this insight with wife Abigail, written at just about this time in another May spring, that of 1780: “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”  With those words in mind, here’s a quick survey of early American art currently on special exhibit throughout the country. Please share more links in the comments. Continue reading

Shadows of History in the Boston Marathon Manhunt

lexingtonandconcordPublic radio station WHYY in Philadelphia airs BBC World Update at 5 a.m. on weekdays. So on Friday morning, oddly enough, it was from the British Broadcasting Corporation rather than any domestic service that I heard surprising news from Boston.

During the night, police had chased two bombing (and robbery) suspects through the labyrinthine streets of Cambridge and Watertown, engaging in at least one major firefight along the way. Now the police seemed to be laying siege to a Watertown neighborhood. The reports at that hour were confused and confusing–not to mention frequently wrong. But as the hunt for the surviving terrorist suspect continued during the day, it became clear that the story was also, in several different ways, strangely familiar.

Continue reading