Monday was a long and busy day at the Princeton Seminar.
We began with a morning of lecture and discussion about how we should think about “colonial America.” I tried to get the teachers to think historically about the colonies and try to rid themselves of a Whig-centered interpretation of the period. In the process we spent a lot of time talking about the difference between a “civics” approach to the past and a “historical thinking” approach to the past. I challenged the teachers to try to understand the colonial American past on its own terms and, at least for a week, pretend that the American Revolution never happened.
I also introduced the teachers to what has been called “The New Indian” history. What might our understanding of colonial America look like if we examine it from the perspective of native Americans? I focused this lecture around three concepts: “Facing East” (Dan Richter), the “Indians’ New World” (James Merrell), and the “Middle Ground” (Richard White).
Finally, we got started with a lecture on the colonial Chesapeake and tried to make sense of why so many people starved to death in the early years of Jamestown. We will be finishing this discussion today by carrying the Virginia story through Bacon’s Rebellion.
In the afternoon, Nate McAlister introduced the teachers to their lesson-plan assignment. Every teacher needs to pick a primary source from the colonial era and write a lesson that they can use with their students. It is always fun to see the documents that they choose and the lessons that they design.
After dinner we split into two groups and got a historical tour of Princeton. My tour guide, Leslie, was excellent. She took us through Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, the home of Albert Einstein, the home of Richard Stockton (Morven), and the Princeton Battlefield Monuments. We got caught in the middle of a thunderstorm while visiting Einstein’s house, but Leslie pushed us through. There we were–standing outside of Morven in the pouring ran listening to Leslie expound upon the life of Stockton. These teachers are real troopers!
About half of us ended the night at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room at Princeton’s Nassau Inn. This is the place where the Princeton Seminar goes to solve all world problems. Tonight was no exception!
Looking forward to day 3! Stay tuned.