This post builds on the conversation begun by Joseph Adelman’s post on early American history blogging the other day, and a panel on the topic at the OIEAHC/SEA conference yesterday. A version of these remarks were delivered at a panel entitled, “Early American Worlds: A State-of-the-Field Conversation” at the 2015 Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting on April 17, 2015 in St. Louis, MO.
For longer than I’ve been alive, our field in a structural sense has been organized through the efforts of the main institutions in the field, i.e., the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and, later, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. From fellowships to seminars to conferences, these institutions gave to the field the significant sense of community it had. And I would argue that the new early American “digital world” is not changing that but expanding upon (or around) it. Social media and blogs are adding an additional layer of social infrastructure within the field itself, creating spaces that foster an even broader and more inclusive sense of community in the field, largely through the ability to include people who for whatever reason don’t have access to or are outside the immediate orbit of those institutions and the field’s traditional channels of community-building. Continue reading