Elections in early America: a reading list

Over at the blog of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, Liz Covart offers a nice bibliography of books on early American election and political history. Here is a taste:

Richard R. Beeman, The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America

Christopher M. Bonner, Remaking the Republic: Black Politics and the Creation of American Citizenship

Robert Dinkin, Voting and Vote-Getting in American History 

Jay K. Dow, Electing the House: The Adoption and Performance of the U.S. Single-Member District Electoral System

Stanley Elkins & Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism

Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic 

Edward B. Foley, Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States

Martha S. Jones, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America

Martha S. Jones, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

Read the rest here.

The Omohundro Institute and George Washington Library Team-Up for Digital Collections Fellowship


The George Washington Presidential Library - DC

Here is Jim Ambuske of Mount Vernon at the blog of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture:

The historian’s craft is a collaborative enterprise. For all of the long days and quiet nights we spend laboring in the archives or in front of computer screens, many of our best insights, discoveries, and claims rest on contributions from our colleagues.

This is especially true in the digital realm. Collaboration has long been a hallmark of the digital humanities and digital history, which leverages the expertise of humanists and technologists to produce new knowledge about the past or create the means to do so.

That is why the Washington Library at Mount Vernon is very excited to collaborate with the Omohundro Institute to offer the OI-Mount Vernon Fellowships for Digital Collections in the American Founding Era. The OI-Mount Vernon Fellowship builds on the OI’s leadership in digital history and its efforts to create digital collections that enrich our understanding of Vast Early America. By offering grants to foster new research into the American Revolution and Early Republic, our goal is to inspire partnerships between scholars and archival repositories that lead to the digitization of primary sources from the Founding Era. 

Read the rest here.

Ronald Hoffman, R.I.P.

Hoffman BookI did not know Ron Hoffman well.  He was the Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture at William & Mary when I was coming of age as an early American historian.

I first met Ron in March 1998 on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  I was a graduate student presenting a paper on Philip Vickers Fithian at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Studies Seminar.  Ron was present at the seminar.  He gave me some great feedback on my paper during the conversation.  Later I learned he drove nearly three hours from Williamsburg to attend the session.  From this point forward, he took an interest in my Fithian project and always seemed to go out of his way to say hello (and get an update on my progress) at conferences.  I always appreciated Ron’s willingness to encourage a graduate student (who did not attend William & Mary) in this way.

Here is the Omohundro Institute obituary for Ronald Hoffman:

The OI is very sad to share the news that Ronald Hoffman, who retired as Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and Professor of History at William & Mary in 2013, passed away on September 4th.

He is survived by his partner, Sally Mason; his daughter and son-in-law, Maia Hoffman and Avi Melamed; his son and daughter-in-law, Barak Hoffman and Dora Lemus; and his sister, Joanne Giza.

A distinguished scholar of the American Revolution, author or editor of dozens of books, and the editor of the Papers of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and the last of the signers to die, Dr. Hoffman was the seventh, and longest serving, Director of the Omohundro Institute.

Born in Baltimore, Dr. Hoffman graduated from Baltimore City College in 1959. His high school career included playing the position of lineman on the football team, which, depending on who is recounting the story, won a fierce contest against a local private school team quarterbacked by a later professional colleague, Professor Peter H. Wood. Following his graduation from City, Ron joined the United States Navy, and served as a Sea Duty Helmsman aboard the USS Newport News, an experience that remained a source of pride to him throughout his life. When his enlistment ended in 1961, he enrolled in Baltimore Junior College and upon finishing his course of study there, completed his undergraduate degree in 1964, at the George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University). At the urging of a mentor at Peabody, Dr. Hoffman entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he was a member of the seminar directed by the renowned historian Merrill Jensen. He earned his Ph.D. from Wisconsin in 1969 and joined the history department at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was, during his tenure (1969-1992), Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, then Professor of History. Johns Hopkins University Press published his first book, A Spirit of Dissension: Economics, Politics, and the Revolution in Maryland, in 1973. Dr. Hoffman also co-authored a textbook, The Pursuit of Liberty: A History of the American People, with R. Jackson Wilson, James Gilbert, Stephen Nissenbaum, Donald Scott, and Carville V. Earle (Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), and contributed essays and articles to scholarly journals and edited collections.

Beginning in 1978, Dr. Hoffman, at the request of the United States Capitol Historical Society’s founding president, Iowa Congressman Fred Schwengel, convened a series of historical conferences focused on the American Revolutionary and Confederation periods through the creation and ratification of the Constitution and the early years of the new Republic. These meetings produced a remarkable fifteen volumes of essays, edited by Dr. Hoffman, his colleague and collaborator Dr. Peter J. Albert, as well as a number of other scholars as co-editors and published by the University Press of Virginia. Among these is Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution, edited by Dr. Hoffman and his longtime friend, fellow University of Wisconsin alumnus, and College Park colleague, the late Dr. Ira Berlin.

Throughout his academic career, Dr. Hoffman served as editor and project director of the Charles Carroll of Carrollton Papers. In 2001 he published, with co-editors Sally D. Mason and Eleanor S. Darcy, the first three of a projected seven volumes. Entitled Dear Papa, Dear Charley: The Peregrinations of a Revolutionary Aristocrat, as Told by Charles Carroll of Carrollton and His Father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, with Sundry Observations on Bastardy, Child-Rearing, Romance, Matrimony, Commerce, Tobacco, Slavery, and the Politics of Revolutionary America, the books won the Maryland Historical Society Book Prize and the J. Franklin Jameson award from the American Historical Association for outstanding editing of historical sources. The previous year he published, in collaboration with Sally D. Mason, a scholarly analysis of the Carroll story entitled Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782. In 2001, the monograph won the Southern Historical Association’s Frank L. and Harriet C. Owlsey Prize and the Library of Virginia’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and in 2002, the Maryland Historical Society Book Prize. Dr. Hoffman, Dr. Mary C. Jeske, and Ms. Mason were at work on the final four volumes of the Carroll Papers at the time of his death. These volumes will be published by the Maryland Historical Society in 2019.

On his retirement, Dr. Hoffman remembered that leading the Institute had felt to him like “assuming a sacred trust.” The Institute, founded in 1943 and sponsored by William & Mary, publishes the flagship journal in the field, The William and Mary Quarterly, has a book program co-publishing with the University of North Carolina Press, awards fellowships to scholars, and convenes meetings and conferences. Appointed director in 1992, Dr. Hoffman guided the organization through significant changes that helped to advance the field of early American history. Investing extraordinary energy in developing innovative scholarly programs and publications, he inaugurated an annual convening of early Americanists aimed especially at supporting the work of scholars who were just entering the profession. Among the dozens of national and international forums he organized were a series of conferences designed to foster historical scholarship on slavery. These began in 1998, with a meeting to introduce the publication of the W. E. B. Dubois Institute Dataset of Slaving Voyages and included a conference held in Ghana in 2007 to mark the 200th anniversary of British efforts to end the transatlantic slave trade. He played an instrumental role in the intellectual lives and professional development of dozens of leading early American scholars, many of whom held fellowships at the Institute during his tenure. He also shepherded the Institute’s naming gift from Malvern H. and Elizabeth Omohundro.

At Maryland and at William & Mary, Dr. Hoffman was a mentor and advisor to scores of graduate students. His undergraduate and graduate courses on the American Revolution were justly famous among William & Mary students for the depth and breadth of reading he required. He was honored with the Pullen Chair in History at William & Mary from 2004-09. He also served on a number of academic advisory groups and editorial boards.

Dr. Hoffman will be buried at Moshav Sde Nitzan in Israel, long a dream of his. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and colleagues, all of whom remember him with abiding affection and gratitude.

On November 6, the Omohundro Institute will host a celebration of Dr. Hoffman’s life from 5:00-7:00 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Sir Christopher Wren Building at William & Mary.

Memorial gifts may be directed to the Omohundro Institute, which sponsors the Ronald Hoffman Postdoctoral Fellowship in his honor. Omohundro Institute, PO Box 8781, Williamsburg, VA, 23187-8781, or contact Shawn Holl at  saholl@wm.edu.

My Piece on the Greenwich Tea Burning at the Omohundro Institute Blog


Check out my piece on the Greenwich Tea Burning at Uncommon Sense, the blog of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.  The post accompanies “The Politics of Tea,” episode 160 of Ben Franklin’s World and part of the Doing History 2: To the Revolution! series.  Learn more here.

A taste:

In 1772, Philip Vickers Fithian, a twenty-four year old graduating senior at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, delivered his commencement disputation on the topic, “political jealousy is a laudable passion.” The disputation echoed the words of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon’s Cato’s Letters. It distinguished between “domestic and ecclesiastical jealousies,” which were harmful to the kind of Christian morality essential to sustaining a republican government, and “political” jealousy, which Fithian described as “rational, uniform, and necessary.” The truly “jealous” citizen kept a careful and virtuous watch on his government leaders to guard against vice and corruption. Political jealousy served as a unifying force. Fithian said that it had the “natural tendency” to “unite people” around interests closely associated with the preservation of a political community. Two years later, Fithian would witness political jealousy in action among the patriots of his hometown, the small hamlet of Greenwich, New Jersey.

Greenwich is located on the Cohansey River about six miles from the Delaware Bay. In the eighteenth century it served as an official British customs port, albeit not a very busy one. Sometime in the second week of December 1774 a brig—local lore identifies it as the Greyhound—docked at John Shepherd’s river landing. It carried East Indian tea. Fithian, who had just spent a year working as a tutor on Robert Carter III’s Nomini Hall plantation on the Northern Neck of Virginia, was in town when the Greyhound arrived. He knew that these were not ordinary times and the Greyhound, because of its cargo, was no ordinary ship.

Read the rest here.

Liz Covart Joins the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Liz CovartHistory podcaster Liz Covart has a new full-time job. The creator and host of Ben Franklin’s World just announced that she will be joining the staff of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture as its New Digital Projects Editor.

Here is a taste of her announcement at Uncommon Sense–The Blog:

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined the staff at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture as its new Digital Projects Editor.

This is a really exciting opportunity because it means long-term support for Ben Franklin’s World and the Doing History series and a chance to continue working and collaborating with the OI’s great staff of talented historians and professionals.

Over the last two years, the team at the Omohundro Institute has helped develop Ben Franklin’s World into a serious and professional media outlet for scholarly history. Their knowledge has played a major role in growing Ben Franklin’s World into a podcast that receives over 160,000 downloads per month and has garnered more than 2 million downloads in less than 3 years. Plus, the Doing History series has evolved into a dynamic series that not only shows the world how historians work and why our work matters, but encourages us to experiment with adapting our traditional modes of historical interpretation and communication to new media. (Thus far these experiments have proven successful as episodes in the Doing History: To the Revolution! series are the most downloaded episodes in the entire BFWorld catalog.)

Read the entire post here. Congratulations, Liz!

Liz Covart and the Omohundro Institute Team-Up for “Doing History”

CovartLiz Covart, the prolific podcaster responsible for Benjamin Franklin’s World, is teaming up with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture for a new podcast series.

“Doing History: A Podcast Serious About How Historians Work,” will be a monthly feature on Ben Franklin’s World.

Here is a taste of the announcement on the OIEAHC website:

Over the next twelve months, Liz will interview scholars about how we frame historical problems, research in different kinds of archives, analyze primary materials including text, objects, and images, synthesize and critically engage secondary literature, present our work for collaborative feedback, and work with editors and publishers. She’ll be looking at what it means to present historical work in different contexts, including as teaching material, as published text, and in a public history context. She’ll be asking questions about different approaches to understanding the past, including the literary and the genealogical.

Liz has made Ben Franklin’s World into an important platform for discussing scholarship with historians; past episodes have featured scholars such as Joyce Chaplin, Kathleen DuVal, Eric Foner, and Alan Taylor. Liz will be the 2016 Omohundro Institute-Lapidus Initiative Assistant Editor for New Media, and she will join, on an ongoing basis, the Advisory Group for the Lapidus Initiative.

I am really looking forward to this.

Borealia Reports on the Omohundro French Atlantic Conference

A couple of weekends ago the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture in Williamsburg hosted a conference titled “Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic.”  For those of you who were not at the conference, or did not have a chance to follow along via Twitter #oifrenchatl, Mairi Cowan of the University of Toronto at Mississauga has summarized the event at Borealia, a new blog devoted to early Canadian history.

Here is a taste of her post:
The early modernism of early Canadian history made a good showing last week in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, at the Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic conference sponsored by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, about a hundred scholars gathered to discuss the connections around and across the Atlantic from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Co-organizers Brett Rushforth and Christopher Hodson said in their opening remarks that one of the conference’s goals was to transcend the boundaries of geography and periodization in the early modern French Atlantic.  This crossing of boundaries proved to be a major theme of the conference, and one that has the potential to enrich the study of early Canadian history in interesting ways.  In particular, it became clear that exciting work on early Canadian history is being vigorously pursued beyond Canada, and that scholarship on regions not normally associated with Canadian history as a field can provide valuable insights for early Canadianists.
Several papers at the conference were tied directly to early Canadian history, in the sense that their geographical scope included an area now within the borders of Canada. Taken together, these papers demonstrate that Canadian history is not restricted to scholars with Canadian addresses; early Canada, as a subject of study, has wide appeal. In the session on “Legalities”, Alexandra Havrylyshyn (University of California, Berkeley) interrogated the presumption that there were no lawyers in New France. In her paper “Practitioners and Procurators in the Litigious Society in New France: An Atlantic Perspective”, she argued for a departure from the common rigid definition of “lawyer” towards a broader understanding of a group of legal professionals that included practitioners and procurators. In the same session, Marie Houllemare (Université de Picardie Jules Verne) delivered a paper on “Penal Circulations in the French Atlantic, 18th century”. Some of the banishments she discussed were cases of people being sent to or from Canada. The session on “Cultures” also featured two papers with strong connections to early Canada. Céline Carayon (Salisbury University), in her paper “Embodied Empire? Communication, Sensibilities, and the Making of the French-Indian Atlantic World”, made a persuasive case for the role of gestures in a system of communication that was deeply embodied and sustained by individual connections grounded in physicality. My own paper, “Demons in New France and the Atlantic Anxieties of Early Canada”, considered how the demonology of New France included both European and North American features in response to Atlantic colonial anxieties. In the session on “Boundaries”, Thomas Wien (Université de Montréal) played with the notion of the “Space of flows” in his paper “Flows of the Space: New France and Central Europe, même combat?” Using images by Franz Xaver Habermann and various textual sources, he showed a surprising series of connections between New France and Central Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Helen Dewar (Boston College), for her part in the session “Religion and Power”, explored how commerce and religion were linked in the seventeenth-century French Atlantic through the example of “A Collaborative Enterprise: Financiers, Religious Orders, and the Company of New France”.
Read the entire report here.

October is Conference Month

Hamilton Crowne Plaza, Washington D.C–Home of USIH Conference

I am not attending any conferences this month, but I am following them via Twitter.

Last weekend it was the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and Arts National Network Conference, the University of North Carolina Humanities Conference, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies “Bustle and Stir” Graduate Conference.

This weekend I am keeping my eye on three more conferences:

1.  The 7th Annual United States Intellectual History Conference in Washington D.C. #usih2015

2.  The Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association in Tampa. #oha2015

3. The Omohundro Institute Early Modern French Atlantic Conference io Williamsburg #oifrenchatl

Follow me at @johnfea1 for retweets.

Blogging the Omohundro

I am headed to Chicago in a couple of days to participate in the Annual Meeting of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. (This year the conference will be meeting along the Society of Early Americanists).  Due to some pressing family obligations I cannot stay for the entire conference, but I am looking forward to being in the Windy City on Thursday to participate in a roundtable discussion on “The Maturing Blogophere of Early America.”  You can learn all about the session by reading Joseph Adeleman’s post at The Junto.  

I should add that this session (I think they are actually calling it a “workshop”) requires registration. Check out Joe’s post to learn more about how to get in on it. 

And now on to other Omohundro conference matters.  As many of you know, we are always looking for correspondents to cover events like this for The Way of Improvement Leads Home. If you are a blog reader who is going to the conference, perhaps you might consider writing one or more blog posts about it.  I can’t pay anything, but I can promise the fame associated with your words and by-line appearing on this blog!

What am I hoping for out of these reports?  Frankly, anything.  Let the spirit move you.  I would love to get general observations, reports on sessions you attend, or any other kind of stuff you might have the time or inclination to write about. 

Feel free to be as creative and journalistic as you want.  If at all possible I would like to get some stuff as the conference is going on, but general summaries would also work.  I will try to get the stuff posted here in real time (or close to it).

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu and we can get the ball rolling. In the meantime, check out our AHA2015 posts to get an idea of what some of our correspondents at that conference wrote about.

The Omohundro Institute is Entering the Blogosphere and We are Going Along for the Ride

The Junto will be a featured blog at “The Octo”

Many of you who read this blog are familiar with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History Culture.  Based at the College of William and Mary, the Institute promotes the study of early American history through conferences, a book series, post-doctoral fellowships, and the publication of the William and Mary Quarterly.

And now the Omohundro Institute will publish “Uncommon Sense: The Blog.”  Here is what you can expect:

As those familiar with the OIEAHC know, last April, in recognition of readers’ evolving habits, and environmental and cost sensitivities, the publication of Uncommon Sense moved completely online. Reports from the Director, Editor of the WMQ (Quarterly Notes) and Books Editor (Ad Libros) as well as features and reprints of favorite articles from the archives under the category of “Classic Sense” anchor the publication.
But the OI has news to report more than the traditional twice-yearly publication of Uncommon Sense and so we bring you Uncommon Sense — the blog.  Interviews with current Quarterly authors and newly published book authors, updates from OI staff members, and reports on our conferences are just a few of the topics that need to be published as they happen. Taken together with the continuing bi-annual production of our longer format Uncommon Sense, we hope readers gain an even richer picture of life at the Institute than they had before.
“Uncommon Sense–The Blog” will be part of a new community of eight early American history blogs called “The Octo.”  Edited by historian and blogger Joseph Adelman, The Octo “showcases some of the best and brightest online writing available about Early America and historical scholarship.” 
We at The Way of Improvement Leads Home are honored to be part of any blogging community that includes Boston 1775, The Junto, Historiann, Past is Present, Uncommonplace Book, and Beyond the Reading Room.  

Keith Grant Reports From the 2014 Omohundro Conference in Halifax

It is summer conference-going season and The Way of Improvement Leads Home is on the beat. A few days ago Liz Covart reported from the New York State History Conference in Poughkeepsie.  Today we hear from Keith S. Grant, a PhD candidate in history at the University of New Brunswick, Canada who studies evangelicalism and print culture in the Atlantic World.  Keith reflects on last week’s 20th annual conference of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He can be reached at keith.grant[at]unb.ca.  –JF

Here is Keith’s report
Halifax, Nova Scotia, played host to the 20thAnnual OIEAHC conference, the theme of which was “the consequences of war.” The program was impressive, with a nice overlap of themes, allowing conversations to span sessions, and to spill into the hallways and onto Twitter (#OIANNUAL).
The keynote address by Jack Greene urged a reconsideration of the formative significance of peacetime for early America, and not only the convulsions of war. To make his case, he focused on the quarter century from the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) to the outbreak of the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739), and examined the non-martial explanations provided by Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ramsay (1749-1815), among others, for the expansion of colonial society in that period. Through his exposition of these writers, Greene suggested that peacetime reveals what an emphasis on wars obscures: America was transformed, not so much by metropolitan authority or military conquest, but by the adaptive agency of the settlers themselves. Focusing on conflict tends to shift attention to the strength of empire, and away from the profound transformations wrought by settlers adapting European societies to new conditions. The continent, he argued, was not won on battlefields, but on the frontiers of settlement.
However, such a narrative can—and did—slide into a kind of “white legend”—a more benign, British, and Protestant alternative to the Spanish “black legend” of American colonization. Variations on the “white legend” can be found in Smith, Ramsay, their nineteenth century successors, and in some of what now passes as “heritage.” But, Greene argued, such a narrative did not take into account the overwhelming costs paid by enslaved Africans and dispossessed indigenous peoples (and Acadians and Jamaican Maroons).
I’m not sure if the lecture provoked the conversation Greene intended. Most of those who came to the microphone during Q & A were senior scholars who were themselves taught or mentored by Greene. They questioned whether peacetime can so neatly be distinguished from the wars that led to new treaty arrangements. They observed that “peace” did not extend to the interior of Africa. They asked about the agency and contributions of African and Native Americans. Most strongly, they insisted that in the period between wars there was no peace, but systemic violence perpetrated through enslavement and dispossession; Greene’s qualifications to that effect did not sufficiently alter the “white legend.” Although it may be that a war story obscures settler (rather than metropolitan) agency, a narrative of peace can paper over the violence on which those settler achievements was predicated.
Of course I can’t say something about every paper or session, so here are a few themes that continue to percolate as I reflect on #OIANNUAL 2014.
There were several very good papers on aspects of “loyalism,” which collectively helped to tease apart the polarity of patriot/loyalist. Christopher Minty argued that loyalism in New York was not born de novo in the heat of Revolution, but instead emerged from long-standing partisanship. With the help of social network analysis, Minty showed how DeLanceyite social mobilization (including a range of print strategies) and “everyday sociability” (i.e. racking up huge tavern tabs) brought together “would-be loyalists” in the years before the Revolution. Liam Riordan offered two surprising pairings, both of which stretch our definition of “loyalism”—a term big enough to include William Martin Johnson (a Georgia doctor and captain with the New York Volunteers) and Thomas Peters (a former North Carolina slave and sergeant in the Black Pioneers, later a leader in the Sierra Leone colony). Riordan also suggested that both loyalists also shared much in common with ordinary Revolutionary soldiers, like Joseph Plumb Martin; no matter who was victorious, all experienced the disruptions of war and the difficulties of resettling in its aftermath. Christopher Sparshott invited us to reconceptualize Revolutionary New York as a refugee camp, and “loyalists” as those who, like all displaced persons, adopted strategies of survival. By examining little-used “memorials” (claims for compensation), Sparshott demonstrated that many New Yorkers framed their loyalism in terms of practical suffering in wartime conditions.

Humanitarianism, it turns out, had a long career before Enlightenment reformers and Romantic idealists made it their own. Erica Charters traced the long development of European conventions for the humane treatment of POWs, including military, legal, nationalistic, and religious motivations. By the time of the American War of Independence, public opinion was the court that adjudicated what constituted humane treatment of POWs. Wendy Churchill argued that professional self-fashioning, as much as idealism, drove eighteenth-century military medical practitioners to adopt the rhetoric of “humanity.”
To mention just one paper from the excellent panel on religion and antislavery, Sarah Crabtree proposed a solution to the puzzle of Quaker reticence in the abolition movement. She suggested that antislavery reformers were connected through Quaker networksand influenced by Quaker ideology. While reformers continued to benefit from the infrastructure of Quaker financing and connections, Quaker trans-Atlantic cosmopolitanism did not sit easily with an increasingly nationalistic conception of antislavery. In perhaps the most quotable moment of the conference, Crabtree observed that Quakers were comfortable as subjects, but not as citizens.
The host province, Nova Scotia, was certainly not neglected in the program. Alexandra Montgomery described the enthusiastic (if not completely successful) promotion of Nova Scotia settlement schemes by Philadelphians, including Benjamin Franklin. Afua Cooper showed that the history of enslavement in Nova Scotia complicates the narrative of Nova Scotia as a refuge for freed blacks or runaway slaves. And Keith Mercer offered a brilliant cultural history of the commemoration of the Shannon’s defeat of the Chesapeake during the War of 1812.
Several papers probed the question of black and indigenous agency in the face of colonization. Maria Bollettino (in a rich plenary session on the consequences of war and the black Atlantic) explored the significance of black combatants in mid-C18 Caribbean conflicts. Although Britain armed blacks to protect slavery, rather than to abolish it, Bollettino suggests that their contributions seeded imaginations for how blacks could later play a range of imperial roles. Thomas Peace argued that colonial day schools in the eighteenth century north east (as opposed to later boarding or residential schools) were an important part of local indigenous communities. Even though the schools were part of a larger colonizing program, skills in literacy made it possible for indigenous communities to resist colonizing pressures, especially through petitions about land. Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, similarly, argued that Haudenosaunee women mitigated the effects of the early republic’s “civilization program” by appropriating those skills that were useful to them (e.g. spinning), while maintaining traditional ways.
Perhaps the best questionof the conference came from Lori Daggar, who wondered how themes related to indigenous peoples (and I think this applies to African Americans) can be more fully integrated into conference programs, so that these themes are not left to specialist panels. Returning to the first evening’s conversation, the question remains, how can the narratives of professional and popular history more seamlessly include black and indigenous agency, and account for both colonial achievement and violence?
Thanks to Justin Roberts (Dalhousie University), Elizabeth Mancke (University of New Brunswick), John Reid (Saint Mary’s University), and the OIEAHC team for great hospitality and for making a space for stimulating conversations.
Thanks, Keith!

Omohundro Institute Conference Recap at The Junto

Tom Cutterham

If people are gathered to discuss early American history, someone from The Junto will be there! 

Tom Cutterham was at the annual meeting of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Johns Hopkins University last week and he offers a nice recap of the event.

Here is a taste:

This year’s annual meeting of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture was hosted with panache by Philip Morgan at Johns Hopkins University. It was apt that it took place in Baltimore, the birthplace of Ron Hoffman, whom the conference honoured as he steps down from a long tenure presiding over the institute. At the closing roundtable, a number of senior scholars movingly—and in some cases hilariously—recounted their experiences as Ron’s colleagues and friends, and paid tribute to his work as editor of the Carroll papers and historian of the Revolutionary war and its dissenters. Tongue firmly in cheek, Ron responded to the tribute manfully, by quoting Charles Carroll’s response to a biography of himself: what you have said, he told the biographer, makes me seem a much greater man than I ever believed, yet you have said nothing that is not absolutely true. 
I can’t, of course, give a thorough overview of the conference, because with simultaneous panels I could only attend less than half of it; so I’ll stick to my personal highlights, which of course begin with the opening plenary on Charles Beard. Indeed, what was gratifying to me about the panel—apart from the amazing opportunity to sit at the same table as Max Edling, Woody Holton, Eric Slauter, and David Waldstreicher—was the seeming consensus in the audience that Beard really is still worth talking about and remembering fondly, in spite of all his failures (not least over slavery). That we should be writing history that deals critically and publicly with matters of class and power, which is precisely the point I wanted to make, was left undisputed: leaving some of us to wonder, perhaps all the conflict has generated something of a Beardian consensus.
Read the rest here

19th Annual Omohundro Institute Conference

The year’s conference is meeting on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  You can find the program here.

A few quick observations.

  • In case you have been under a rock, the Omohundro Institute Conference is no longer your parents’ early American history conference.  9 out of 19 sessions include a reference to “The Atlantic World,” “Transatlantic,” or something similar.  It is clear that an “Atlantic” approach to early America continues to hold sway over the field.
  • Twenty-three of the 57 papers that will be presented focus on subjects outside of those thirteen British colonies that would eventually become the United States.  It is clear that early American historians are taking more of a “continental” approach to the field.
  • While I am sure that religion will be addressed in some of the sessions, I did not see one session or one paper specifically devoted to the topic. I am not sure what to make of this, if anything.