Review: The American Revolution Reborn

The American Revolution Reborn, ed. Patrick Spero and Michael Zuckerman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

15598Between May 30 and June 1, 2013, hundreds of historians, teachers, and students came together in Philadelphia to discuss twenty-first-century perspectives on the American Revolution at a landmark conference, “The American Revolution Reborn.” That conference, which received and receives regular shout-outs here at The Junto, forms the basis for The American Revolution Reborn, an edited collection of essays designed to “upset the patterns of history inquiry that have defined scholarship for the past generation” (3). Much like The Oxford Handbook on the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), The American Revolution Reborn seeks to regenerate interest in the Revolution with “new perspectives” that, the editors and contributors hope, “will produce new interpretations of the past that move our understanding forward in new directions” (5). Continue reading

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Guest Post: Is There a Revisionist Doctor in the House?

Carl Robert Keyes is a newly tenured Associate Professor of History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is currently working on a book about advertising practices and consumer culture in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. An earlier version was delivered at the induction ceremony for the Phi Alpha Theta chapter at Framingham State University in April, 2014.

Earlier this month I finished teaching my first public history course. I’ve long been concerned about how professional historians, especially academic historians, (often don’t) communicate with the public and, in turn, the general public’s misunderstanding of the historian’s craft. Teaching a public history course made these apprehensions central to my work in the classroom. My students and I grappled with a different kind of historiography, a less formal historiography consisting of public opinion, incomplete recollections of elementary and secondary history education, and a “master narrative” that usually dominates stories of the American past told by many public figures, a narrative steeped in patriotism, heritage, and commemoration. More than ever, I found myself challenging my students (in all my classes, not just the public history course) to take a three-part approach in their studies:  learn about the past, learn about how professional historians have interpreted the past, and learn about how the general public understands the past. This became yet another way to demonstrate that course content has relevance outside the classroom and beyond the semester.

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