In summer 2010 I sat in the house furnished by Rhys Isaac in Colonial Williamsburg, and attempted to write my first dissertation chapter. I’d just finished my first research trip, to Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa, and was in the middle of my second, at the John D. Rockefeller Library. I was trying to follow advice I’d read to write as I researched. There was no Wi-Fi in the house, which was a curse and a blessing. I couldn’t get distracted, but I also did not have instantaneous access to articles and books, which meant I couldn’t check basic facts and chronologies, which, turns out, tend to be missing from your research! Continue reading
Many of us have been there. Sitting in front of our computers, we fret over how we will find the time and funding to examine important manuscript sources at faraway archives. And then, a few keystrokes later, we find that those sources are available in published form. Relief floods over us, replacing anxiety. But should we really be so relieved?
James H. Merrell’s recent article in Early American Studies asks exactly this question. Entitled “‘Exactly as they appear’: Another Look at the Notes of a 1766 Treason Trial in Poughkeepsie, New York, with Some Musings on the Documentary Foundations of Early American History,” it suggests that we should not be so quick to assume that published versions of manuscript sources faithfully reproduce the originals. 
Scholarship can come at such a fast clip nowadays that it can be tough to keep up. Actually, scratch that; it is impossible to keep up with the massive amounts of articles that come out at an unrelenting rate. With the number of journals out there publishing quality work in early American history—journals that are both dedicated to our field or just sometimes carry work in our field amongst other periods—there is often an avalanche of new work that one can feel overwhelmed. Whether you receive hard copies of the many journals, use those from your institution’s library, or just get all of the content online (guilty), your reading list is always at such a ridiculous height that it is difficult to just keep track of all the recent articles, let alone read them. Such are the #firstworldproblems of the modern-day academic.
Well, that’s where the Junto comes in. Periodically, we hope to highlight recent articles that we found especially noteworthy. I’ll list a handful in the post (that are, of course, reflective of my own interests), and then we will rely on you, our dear reader, to share other recent articles you found important. Together, perhaps we can slay the beast that is the growing mound of unread articles. Continue reading