The Week in Early American History

TWEAHThis has been a momentous week for early Americanists, with the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination to start the week and, especially for those of us in Massachusetts, the annual commemorations of Patriot’s Day this weekend. We have lots of great links for you below the fold!

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Guest Post: The Revolutions in the Margins of AMC’s “Turn”

Don Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Northwestern University. His work explores how ordinary Americans experienced the major political and military events of the Revolutionary era in the course of their everyday lives, and how those experiences shaped actions and changed world-views going forward. Don’s dissertation, now nearing completion, examines the social dynamics of six port cities occupied by the British army during the Revolutionary War.

TurnThe AMC series Turn ended its first season last month with mixed reviews. The consensus seems to be that the series, which tells the story of the Culper spy ring during the American Revolution, has a strong cast, good production values, and promising subject matter but ultimately fails both as a drama and as an accurate representation of history. Popular reviews have mostly found the narrative arc slow and frustrating, while the show’s numerous departures from the historical record have inspired an entire blog devoted to separating fact from fiction. As The Junto’s Roy Rogers put it in his review of the first three episodes back in April, these narrative and historical failings made the series in large part “just another morality play—The Patriot in the guise of Mad Men.”

While Turn‘s main storyline falls far short of doing justice to the fascinating story of the Culper spies, in its background characters and neglected subplots lie many of the complex and diverse experiences of ordinary Americans. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWelcome to another exciting week in early American history, where all the women are strong, all the men are strong, all the children are strong, and all the historians are above average. This week, we can report: Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAH

Let’s kick another weekly roundup of early American history links off with this fascinating and fun look at Revolutionary-era pronunciations of the word “Huzza(h)!” over at Journal of the American Revolution (hint: it rhymes with “fray”). Continuing with the general theme of historical language and pronunciation, Sam Sack’s New Yorker review of Ben Tarnoff’s newly-released, The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers who Reinvented American Literature, includes some reflections on Twain’s use of “unrefined idiomatic English” and “how America learned to hear itself talk.”  Continue reading

Turn, Turn, TURИ

I had the opportunity, over the course of Passover-Easter break, to watch the first three episodes of AMC’s new series Turn (transcribed as TURИ on subway ads).[1] The show is very much in the vein of the recent spate of high-serious historical (Mad Men) or faux-historical (Game of Thrones) dramas airing on the finer cable networks (AMC, IFC, HBO). Turn, like its sister-shows, features excellent acting and wonderful set and costume design. Unlike these other shows, however, it adapts for television a historical event that gets a lot of coverage on this blog–the American Revolution.[2] For the series AMC has turned Alexander Rose’s Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring into a tale of conflicted loyalties, love, betrayal, and waterboarding fit, some ways, for our new Golden Age of television. At the same time, much is lost in the adaptation process.

For the more spoilerphobic among our community, this essay will contain spoilers for the pilot episode of Turn.

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