Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Trump Hits Back at Pelosi, Threatening Her Trip to See Troops”

The Washington Post: “State Dept. employees ordered back to work as Trump nixes Pelosi trip and Davos delegation, citing shutdown”

The Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Debates Lifting China Tariffs to Hasten Trade Deal, Calm Markets”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “‘Major’ winter storm to wallop Pa. this weekend”

BBC: “Australia swelters through record-breaking heatwave”

CNN: “Buzzfeed: Sources say Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about proposed Moscow project”

FOX: “Trump cancels US delegation to Davos summit, Sanders says”

The Author’s Corner with Edward Rugemer

slave law and the politics of resistance in the early atlantic world

Edward Rugemer is an Associate Professor of African American Studies and History at Yale University. This interview is based on his new book Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World (Harvard University Press, 2018).

JF: What led you to write Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World?

ER: When I was in graduate school at Boston College, both Ira Berlin’s Many Thousands Gone and Philip Morgan’s Slave Counterpoint were published during the years before my oral exams. I read both and was inspired to take on a comparative project, though not, I was advised, for my dissertation. The idea for the comparison at the heart of this book came from my dissertation/ first book, The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2008). I realized in writing that book that the planter classes in Jamaica and South Carolina had this very similar relationship with abolitionists. They were the most radically pro-slavery in these different regions of the Anglo Atlantic, the U.S. South and the British Caribbean. When I considered this realization alongside the work of Richard Dunn and Peter Wood, that both Jamaica and South Carolina were “colonies” of Barbados (to use Wood’s phrase), I saw that these two slave societies had followed very similar historical arcs. They had common origins, developed into the wealthiest colonies of their respective regions, and though each went its separate way during the American Revolution, both followed a very similar pattern in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution and the emergence of radical abolitionism. Comparison requires both similarity and difference and the political histories of Jamaica and South Carolina have the necessary mix.

The central theme of the book — the relationship between slave resistance and broader political changes — also came from the first book, specifically in the first few chapters. I felt there was much more to say about the impact of slave resistance upon the political history of slave societies. Some of this work had been done by historians of the American Civil War era such as Jim Oakes and Steve Hahn, and historians of the nineteenth century Caribbean such as Mary Turner and Emilia Viotti da Costa, and more recently Gelien Matthews and Claudius Fergus. But no one had gone deeper into the colonial period and I thought it was important to do so.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World?

ER: Very early in the history of Atlantic slave societies a political dialectic developed between Africans who forcefully resisted enslavement, and slaveholding colonists who sought to impose the rigid social control they saw as necessary for profitable colonial enterprise. This dialectic is evident in slave law, it developed and changed until the abolition of slavery, and it shaped the histories of Jamaica and South Carolina in fundamentally different ways.

JF: Why do we need to read Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World?

ER: First, it is a valuable account of, and explanation for, the political significance of slave resistance in Anglo-Atlantic slave societies from their origins to the 1830s. Secondly, the book makes clear the differences between the slave regimes of the Caribbean and the U.S. In this way it complements Richard Dunn’s important study, A Tale of Two Plantations

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

ER: I worked as a Jesuit volunteer teaching high school in Kingston, Jamaica, from 1994-1996 and my experience there led me to some deep reading in the history of slavery and eventually graduate school.

JF: What is your next project?

ER: I have two different projects that are in the early stages. I am thinking about writing a synthesis of slavery in the Western World. My most ambitious self wants to start with some of the theories on the origins of slavery, move into ancient Greece and Rome, the decline of slavery in Western Europe and its persistence in the Mediterranean, the expansion into the Atlantic. But I want to take this history up to modern slavery and human trafficking in our own time. I don’t think we have an historical narrative that integrates the racial slavery of the Atlantic World, which lasted for generations and has had such insidious afterlives, with the various forms of slavery that persist today. Many modern day abolitionists invoke the abolitionist movements of the past without careful attention to the distinctions between these manifestations of slavery across time and space. Historians need to do this. So I’d like to come up with a synthesis that brings this history together.

The second idea is a deeply archival project about a slaveholder we know very little about. His name is Charles Douglas and the Beinecke Library has about 30 years of his correspondence with his brother Patrick. I read it all during my first year at Yale, thinking I would use it for this book, but I only used one brief quote. Douglas moves from Ayr, Scotland to Jamaica when he was a teenager. He mostly worked as a bookkeeper at first (kind of an assistant overseer), but he does accrue some wealth and becomes a slaveholder. What’s curious about him is that when he buys land, he buys land that directly abuts Moore Town in the Blue Mountains, which is one of the Maroon Towns. He becomes the superintendent for the Moore Town Maroons, which is a position established by the 1739 treaties that ended the first Maroon War and recognized Maroon autonomy within the colony. Formally, he was the Maroons’ military commander, but in fact I don’t think it worked that way. Yet there were these superintendents, one for each of the towns, and they were well paid by the colonial state. But there is an archival challenge: I need to find his reports. I don’t know where they are and no one has ever referenced them. And if I can find them, it could be a really interesting book. I need to dig deeper and I love that challenge, but it will take some time.

JF: Thanks, Edward!

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “White House Redefines Who is Essential to Get Parts of Government Moving Again”

The Washington Post: “Killing of 4 Americans in Syria throws spotlight on Trump’s policy”

The Wall Street Journal: “Poll-Rigging for Trump and Creating @WomenForCohen: One IT Firm’s Work Order”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “‘Blockbuster’ storm to bring snow, wintry mix to PA.”

BBC: “Brexit: Theresa May pushes for cross-party consensus”

CNN: “Trump’s shutdown nightmare: A choice between the economy and the wall”

FOX: “Giuliani claims ‘I never said there was no collusion’ in Trump campaign”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “The Brexit Deal Failed in Parliament. What is Next for Britain?”

The Washington Post: “Trump administration calling nearly 50,000 back to work, unpaid, as shutdown drags on”

The Wall Street Journal: “Shutdown is a ‘Hellacious Situation’ for Federal Government Contractors”

Harrisburg-Patriot News:  “How much do you really need to earn to support a family in each Pa. county?”

BBC: “Brexit: Theresa May faces confidence vote after huge defeat”

CNN: “Another good day for Putin as turmoil grips US and UK”

FOX: “Ocasio-Cortez set to join Maxine Waters on key financial services committee”

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Trump Claims There is a Crisis at the Border. Here’s the Reality.”

The Washington Post: “The shutdown is giving some Trump advisers what they’ve long wanted: A smaller government”

The Wall Street Journal: “White House Looks to Chip Away at Democrats’ Resolve as Record Shutdown Rolls On”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Midweek snowstorm to be followed by possible ‘major’ storm this weekend”

BBC: “Brexit: Theresa May faces ‘meaningful vote’ on her deal”

CNN: “How powerful is the president? Barr hearing to test fundamental question”

FOX: “New migrant caravan leaves Honduras for journey to US border”

The Author’s Corner with Matthew Bahar

Matthew Bahar is an Asstorm of the seasistant Professor of History at Oberlin College. This interview is based on his new book Storm of the Sea: Indians and Empires in the Atlantic’s Age of Sail (Oxford University Press, 2018).

JF: What led you to write Storm of the Sea: Indians and Empires in the Atlantic’s Age of Sail?

MB: The book emerged from my interest in two of early American history’s most dynamic subfields, Atlantic and American Indian history. When I began to conceptualize this project, practitioners of each didn’t have much to say to one another; Atlanticists saw Indians as terrestrial people and Native Americanists viewed the Atlantic World as a fundamentally European space. I wanted to write a book that explored one principal question: what happens to the “Atlantic World” when we add Indians to it? The answer readers confront as they move through the narrative might surprise them as much as it did me.

The colonial-era Wabanaki seemed like a good case study to explore this question. They’re among the few Native groups in the east who have remained on their ancestral lands near the ocean up to the present. I aimed to figure out why. As I did, I discovered an incredible story that hasn’t received the appreciation it deserves.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Storm of the Sea: Indians and Empires in the Atlantic’s Age of Sail?

MB: In the two centuries after Europeans first arrived in the American Northeast, the Wabanaki Confederacy coalesced around an expansionist and extractive political project designed to establish dominion over the sea and shore of northern New England and French Acadia. Their appropriation and assimilation of sailing technology proved essential to its fortunes.

JF: Why do we need to read Storm of the Sea: Indians and Empires in the Atlantic’s Age of Sail?

MB: It positions Indians where we’re not accustomed to seeing them – aboard prize ships, scrambling up the rigging, working sails, and commanding the helm. We expect to see Europeans there. But readers will quickly encounter them elsewhere, in places and postures equally unexpected.

History books often adopt a narrative trajectory of declension or progress. This is especially true in Native American history. Protagonists and antagonists in these sorts of stories are easy to identity. Storm of the Sea aims to eschew this. I hope readers instead find a more human narrative that recalls the profound contingency of life in colonial America, as the actors themselves would’ve experienced it.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

MB: I decided on this profession while working for a couple years in an unrelated field after my undergraduate degree. Looking back, I’m glad I spent time outside academia because it gave me the time and space to reflect intentionally on my past learning and future goals. Moving away from the intellectual community of my college years allowed me to cultivate a better appreciation for the spirit of discovery that’s so central to our experiences in the classroom, library, and archive.

I became an American historian in graduate school because America’s indigenous past had captivated me for many years. I grew up very close to an Indian reservation and in some ways encountered Indians the way many American colonists did: often and everywhere. They were people with whom you interacted every day in a variety of contexts, some amicable and others fraught, and their presence seemed as natural and permanent as everyone else’s in the community. As I studied the history of white-Indian relations, I began to appreciate the distinctiveness of the colonial period and of my own lived experience.

JF: What is your next project?

MB: I’m working on a book-length study of shipwrecks in colonial America. Several of the themes central to Storm of the Sea, such as Native and colonial political economies, catastrophe and misery, gender roles, imperialism, and maritime violence, are shaping my inquiry into this strikingly common transportation disaster in the early modern period. The book will ultimately conceptualize shipwrecks as both destructive and generative experiences for Natives and newcomers alike, politically, socially, and economically.

JF:   Thanks Matthew!

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Pentagon Officials Fear Bolton’s Actions Increase Risk of Clash With Iran”

The Washington Post: Revelations about Manafort’s 2016 interactions with Russian associate show special counsel’s intense focus on Russia contacts”

The Wall Street Journal: “Slowing Earnings Growth, Gloomy Forecasts Add to Stock Market’s Woes”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Tom Wolf, at half-time, says he’ll focus on achievable goals”

BBC: “Theresa May says no Brexit more likely than no deal”

CNN: “Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia”

FOX: “Trump slams ‘Jeff Bozo,’ Washington Post over Amazon founder’s divorce”

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “V.A. Seeks to Redirect Billions of Dollars into Private Care”

Washington Post: “Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration”

The Wall Street Journal: “Shutdown Breaks Record for Longest in Modern History”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Man fleeing officer crashes into truck carrying 6 headed to Farm Show, critically injuring driver: Police”

BBC: “Brexit failure a catastrophic breach of trust, says May”

CNN: “Washington Post: Trump concealed details from meetings with Putin”

FOX: “Dems fly to Puerto Rico on chartered jet, meet lobbyists, see ‘Hamilton’ as shutdown drags on”


Morning Headlines

New York Times: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia”

Washington Post: “‘Could you make these guys essential?’: Mortgage industry gets shutdown relief after appeal to senior Treasury officials”

The Wall Street Journal: “Shutdown Set to Eclipse Longest in Modern History”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “The Penn State 2019 crystal ball: A way-too-early list of predictions for the spring and beyond”

BBC: “Paris ‘gas explosion’ kills two firefighters in city centre”

CNN: “Record shutdown is a massive Washington failure”

FOX: “Trump slams ‘total sleaze’ Comey, ‘corrupt’ FBI leaders, after report bureau launched probe after director’s ouster”

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “U.S. Forces Begin Withdrawing From Syria”

Washington Post: “Trump administration lays groundwork to declare national emergency to build wall”

The Wall Street Journal: “Chinese Huawei Executive Is Charged With Espionage in Poland” 

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Harrisburg Catholics seeking answers after clergy sex abuse scandal pack ‘listening session'”

BBC: “US Shutdown: Trump renews national emergency threat over wall”

CNN: “‘This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!’ Couple describes how missing teen ended up at their door”

FOX: “Jayme Closs fled captor and flagged down dog walker; suspect arrested: report”


Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Trump Storms Out of White House Meeting With Democrats on Shutdown”

Washington Post: “Trump walks out of shutdown negotiations after Democrats reject wall money, calls meeting ‘total waste of time'”

The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Walks Out of Shutdown Talks, Calls Them ‘Total Waste of Time'”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “‘They argued pretty much the whole time’: Vigil held for troubled couple, son after apparent murder-suicide”

BBC: “Trump walks out of shutdown talks with a ‘bye-bye'”

CNN: “No way out: Trump walks out, Dems remain firm”

FOX: “Second death, more accusations sharpen focus on Ed Buck, California Democratic megadonor”