Have Cultural Historians Lost the American Revolution?

In just over a week from now, the Massachusetts Historical Society is hosting, “‘So Sudden an Alteration’: The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the American Revolution,” an important conference on the American Revolution in recognition of the the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act. This is the second of three conferences dedicated to rediscovering or re-energizing study of the American Revolution, the first of which, “The American Revolution Reborn,” was hosted by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in the spring of 2013. And so with the conference fast approaching, I want to use this piece to think about the specific moment and circumstances in which American Revolution studies currently finds itself, which has been the catalyst for this series of conferences, and suggest possibilities going forward. The primary circumstance of that moment, with which many seem to agree, is that the study of the Revolution is in a rut, plodding along in the same “well-worn grooves of historical inquiry” for the “past fifty years,” according to the conference’s call for papers. Continue reading

On Social Media Feeds for Historical Organizations and History Departments

TwitterFBTurns out that after several stints running social media accounts for different institutions, I have feelings about what works and what doesn’t. What follows is a prescriptive ramble of things that historical organizations and history departments should be doing on Twitter and Facebook, with the understanding that there is a lot that I’m not covering, such as general Twitter etiquette, blogs, Tumblr, podcasts, or other social media topics we’ve already covered here. I’ll leave it to you in the comments to discuss these issues further—and to point out which additional accounts strike you as models to follow. Continue reading

Are We All Book Historians Now?

Tomorrow at the Library Company of Philadelphia, I’ll be participating in a special edition of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies’ Friday seminar reflecting on five years of the Mellon Early American Literature and Material Texts Initiative. The Initiative began in 2009 as an effort to get early Americanists taking a material-texts approach to their research to step out of their respective fields and into a general conversation about the methods, theory, and potential of that approach. Over the course of five years, the initiative has provided funding for ten dissertation fellows to be in residency at the McNeil Center and make use of the tremendous resources of the Library Company and other area archives. In addition, the Initiative has contributed funding to conferences and sponsored a workshop each summer bringing together both junior and senior scholars to discuss their work and the trajectories of material-texts research. For Friday’s seminar, four former material-text fellows will discuss short selections of our current work and how our experiences in the Initiative have affected it.  Continue reading

Guest Post: On the Anvil of Labor History in the Revolutionary Era

Today’s guest post comes from Peter Kotowski, a Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and a Ph.D. candidate at Loyola University Chicago.  His research uses the lived experiences of indentured servants to explore Pennsylvania’s development within the Atlantic economy and the extent to which the colony was “the best poor man’s country.”

BillySmith2In the introduction to their 2008 edited collection, Class Matters, Simon Middleton and Billy G. Smith make the bold proclamation that “as a mode of historical analysis of early North America and the Atlantic World, class is dead – or so it has been reported for the last two decades.”[1]  The subsequent collection of essays makes a convincing case that class is not, in fact, dead.  For Smith, this volume was merely a continuation of a decades-long commitment to class as a primary mode of analysis.  It was in the spirit of Smith’s work that dozens of scholars converged on the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in Philadelphia from November 7-9 for what was affectionately dubbed “Billyfest.”
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Epilogue or Prologue? The Royal Proclamation Turns 250

If you’ve heard of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, it’s probably in the form of the “Proclamation Line,” the imaginary line of masking tape across the Appalachian Mountains dividing English colonists along the coast from native populations in the interior of North America. According to a group of historians gathered at the Old State House in Boston this past Friday, it may have far greater significance. (Or not.)

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Traces of Early America: Conference Recap

Traces

Today’s post is a joint effort between two contributors to The Junto: Michael Blaakman and Sara Damiano. 

Three years ago, during a graduate-seminar discussion of Prosperos America, Walter Woodward’s study of Puritans and alchemy, John Demos made a bold and challenging point.[1] After a century or so of professional scholarship, many of American history’s most obvious stories have been told in the ways it seems easiest to tell them. One of the greatest tasks for the rising generation of historians, Demos suggested, is to search beneath the surface of things for stories yet untold—for processes, events, ideas, and dynamics that subsequent history has largely obscured, and that often pose significant evidentiary problems for those who wish to write about them. In other words, the next generation of scholars will have to try harder than their predecessors to ask new questions and to find new methods for wringing answers out of the sources. Continue reading

A Conversation with Early American Studies

Early American Studies coverLast Wednesday, the Brown Bag series at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies hosted a conversation with Dallett Hemphill, the current editor of Early American Studies. For those who were not able to attend, we at The Junto wanted to summarize the discussion and invite you to participate.

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