“The Culture of the Confederation Era”

The Panorama, the online site of The Journal of the Early Republic, is running an informative roundtable on the United States under the Articles of Confederation. Here is a taste of Rosemarie Zagarri‘s introduction to the roundtable:

In March 2020, just as the Covid virus was sweeping through the country and the national lockdown was beginning, a writer for The Atlantic magazine announced, “The United States is about to find out whether the Articles of Confederation would have worked.” As President Donald Trump made clear from the earliest days of the pandemic, the federal government would not be responsible for coordinating a national response to the crisis.  Each state would be on its own, left to its own devices in securing ventilators, determining when to open up its economy, and deciding if and when its residents would wear masks. Now as the country continues to struggle to get a handle on the pandemic, we have a glimmer of insight into how the country may have functioned if Americans had rejected the strong central government created by the U.S. Constitution and had chosen instead to retain its first federal government, the “firm league of friendship” established under the Articles of Confederation.

With the benefit of hindsight, then, it seems oddly prescient that a group of early American historians gathered at the SHEAR conference held in July 2019 to talk about, and reassess, the current state of scholarship on the Confederation era and to propose new directions for the study of the period. I see at least three major themes emerging from the papers that offer promising directions for new research.

Read the rest here.

The roundtable includes several articles:

Jane Calvert, “The John Dickinson Draft of the Articles of Confederation.”

Sara Georgini, “When the World Turned Upside Down.”

Robb Haberman, “Record-Keeping and Power Dinners: John Jay, Sarah Livingston Jay, and the Practices of Foreign Policy during the Critical Decade.”

Terrance Rucker, “Bridging Divides.”