Making the Personal Historical: Reflections on Pregnancy and Birth

Lady and Children

“A Lady & Children,” 1780 mezzotint, the British Museum.

Human reproduction is simultaneously unchanged and radically different over time and across cultures. This paradox has preoccupied me for over a year as I carried and gave birth to my first child one year ago today, and as I watched my sister follow the same path soon after. Throughout my pregnancy, delivery, and now early motherhood, I’ve found myself thinking often long-dead women and pondering how vastly different our experiences of the same condition must be.

Pregnancy and birth generate intense  feelings. Most parents experience joy, hope, and fear. As a historian, I regularly identify with the women I encounter in the archive. The empathy born of our shared biological and emotional experiences generated two additional emotions that most new parents may not: gratitude, on the one hand, and anger on the other. Continue reading

Part of the Long History of Child Trafficking: 18th-Century French Louisiana

2005-0011As we continue to learn more about the seizure and internment of migrant infants and children, both along the U.S.-Mexico border and in ICE raids throughout the nation, historians have asked us to wrestle with our long history of child-snatching, family separation, and child trafficking. I’ve read these pieces with a keen sense that while this is a particularly acute theme in American history, separating and abducting children from their families has been a tactic that many regimes have used for centuries to bolster their power. Whether we’re discussing slavery, the expulsion of Moriscos from Spain, or even pronatalist policies to populate early modern colonies, trafficking children has been an enduring state tactic. As a historian of #VastEarlyAmerica, with a focus on the French context, I keep thinking about the growth of the Louisiana colony in the eighteenth century. In addition to the forced migration and abduction of thousands of enslaved Africans, many of whom were children and adolescents, eighteenth-century French Louisiana was also populated with trafficked French children. Continue reading

Inspiration Roundtable: Haunting Sources

Today, Lindsay O’Neill, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern California, joins our weeklong discussion about sources and inspiration. Her first book, The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2015. Today she shares the sources that inspired (or haunted) her book-in-progress, titled “Barbarous Country: The Delogaon Princes and the British Empire, 1715-1725.”

photo_1023589 O'Neill

I do not remember precisely when the princes began to haunt me. It might have been when I called up the ominous sounding “Book of Strangers” at the Huntington Library. This turned out to simply be a list of dinner guests at the Duke of Chandos’ estate of Cannons, but what I found inside was rather extraordinary. Listed at the Duke’s table on 24 September 1721 were “Two African Princes.” Intriguing, I thought. However, this must not have been the first time I came across a reference to them, for I remember knowing who these men were. I had, or would, read about them in letters from the Duke of Chandos who hosted the dinner. I would encounter them again in the letters of Sir John Perceval. And then again in the letters of Sir Hans Sloane. I told you these two men were haunting me. Now, there was no reason for them to. At the time, I was not interested in African princes. I was interested in letters since I was working on what would become my first book: The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World. But it turned out that the loosely linked letter writers whose correspondence I was working my way through were interested in African princes and soon so was I. Continue reading

Where Historians Work: The View from Early America — Welcome to the Series!

PhD graphicIn February 2017, The Junto sent out a call to historians working outside the professoriate to join us in a conversation about career diversity for early American history PhDs.[1] The response was exciting and full of interesting conversations with curators, scholars, archivists, librarians, and public historians who have chosen to pursue their passion for research, writing, and teaching in a variety of settings and occupations.

Starting tomorrow, and over the coming weeks, The Junto will feature Q&A’s between Columbia University PhD candidate and Public Historian Katy Lasdow, and a range of participants.

Continue reading

Reminder to join the conversation “Where Historians Work: A View from Early America”

Reminder to join the conversation “Where Historians Work: A View from Early America”

Do you hold a PhD titlesin early American history/literature/architectural history/art history/etc. or a related field, and have you chosen a career outside of the professoriate? The Junto wants to hear from you! There’s still time to participate in our conversation, “Where Historians Work: A View from Early America.”

Leave your stories in the comments of this post. Or, if you would prefer a less public forum, you may email The Junto (thejuntoblog@gmail.com) with the subject line “Career Diversity.” Please post comments or email by Friday, February 17. Continue reading

Where Historians Work: A View from Early America

Where Historians Work: A View from Early America

where-historians-work_graphicRecently the American Historical Association published Where Historians Work: An Interactive Database of History PhD Career Outcomes, “the only interactive, discipline-specific, and cross-institutional database of career outcomes for PhDs.” Using data collected from AHA directories and on the web, “Where Historians Work” presents a robust statistical overview of the varied employment sought by History PhDs from more than 30 degree-granting intuitions. For those historians who have long held positions outside of the academy, the database, part of the AHA’s broader Career Diversity for Historians initiative, is a welcome acknowledgement of what many have known anecdotally for years: History PhDs can—and do!—work in an array of fields.

Continue reading

Guest Post: The Constitution, Slavery, and the Problem of Agency

Today we feature a guest post by Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf), Professor of History and Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. His scholarship has appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic, Ohio History, and several edited volumes. He is currently writing a continental history of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

constitution_1_of_4_630Sean Wilentz’s op-ed in Wednesday’s New York Times was by turns baffling, infuriating, and sad. At its root, the essay is a narrow, technical argument trying to disguise itself as an overarching Big Answer to Important Questions. Wilentz claims “the myth that the United States was founded on racial slavery”—a myth embraced “notably among scholars and activists on the left”—is actually “one of the most destructive falsehoods in all of American history.” Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: