2018 Princeton Seminar: Day 6

2018 Princeton Sat 4And that’s a wrap.

Yesterday was the final day of the 2018 Gilder-Lehrman seminar on colonial America at Princeton University.  It was another great week with 34 teachers from around the country.

The last day of the seminar is my favorite.  We talked about Philip Vickers Fithian, the “rural Enlightenment,” the First Great Awakening, and the Britishness of the American colonies on the eve of the American Revolution.  In the afternoon, the teachers presented their lesson plans to their colleagues in the class.

It was a wonderful week.  I always learn so much from these teachers. Their passion for history and history education inspire me.  But this week was different.  As many of you know, I have spent the last year or so thinking and writing about evangelicals and Donald Trump.  My return to the 17th and 18th centuries this week was a refreshing refuge for me.  It renewed my commitment to continue my work in early America and gave me an intellectual jump start on a book I am writing on the American Revolution.

Thanks to everyone who made this week happen:  George Boudreau, the staff at Princeton University, the seminar staff at Gilder-Lehrman, the teachers willing to commit a week to an intensive study of colonial America, and especially my partner-in-crime and seminar coordinator Nate McAlister.

We will be back next year!

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2018 Princeton Sat 5


Princeton Seminar: Day 5

Princeton 2018 Fri 5

Our fearless leader Nate McAlister with a Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence.  Only 25 exist and Princeton’s Firestone Library has one of them.

Read all of our Princeton Seminar 2018 posts here.

It was another busy day yesterday at the Gilder-Lehrman Summer Seminar for teachers on the “colonial era.”  The teachers heard lectures on women and dissent in Puritan New England, slave culture in 18th-century South Carolina, and the Enlightenment in America. (My voice is recovering after 4-hours of lecturing!)

The highlight of the day was our annual visit to the Firestone Library Rare Books Department.  Curator Eric White pulled some classic early American texts for us to examine and even broke out one of the original July 4 Dunlap broadsides of the Declaration of Independence.  In addition, we got a look at works by William Bradford Increase Mather, Cotton Mather, John Eliot, William Penn, John Locke, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Addison and Steele, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Samuel Smith, Thomas Paine, and Phillis Wheatley.

I love watching the teachers get excited about encountering these documents.  Some of them were moved to tears.

One more day to go!

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Princeton 2018 Fri 3

Princeton 2018 Fri 1

Princeton Seminar: Day 4

Princeton 2018 Thu 2Today the 2018 Princeton Seminar hit the road.  We spent the day in Philadelphia with George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia.  George is fixture of the Philadelphia public history world and probably knows more about colonial Philadelphia than anyone else alive.  The teachers got a real treat today!



Princeton 2018 Thu 1

George got us started in Welcome Park with an overview of the founding of Pennsylvania

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Princeton 2018 Thu 4

Introducing the teachers to George Boudreau

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With my partner-in-crime Nate McAlister, a true gentleman!

Princeton 2018 Thu 6

Hey Nate–what happened in this room?


Day 3 of the 2018 Princeton Seminar

Princeton 2018 Wed. 3

Teachers hard at work on lesson planning

Day 3 is in the books!  (For posts on Day 1 and 2 click here).

We covered a lot of content today.  I spent the morning lecturing on the seventeenth-century Chesapeake.  After lunch, we started on the Puritans and Massachusetts Bay.  Nate continues to spend the afternoons working with teachers on their colonial-era lesson plans.

Tonight we took an informal tour of Princeton’s Presbyterian Cemetery where we visited the graves of Aaron Burr Sr., Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, John Withersoon, Aaron Burr Jr., Grover Cleveland (and his daughter “Baby Ruth”), B.B. Warfield, and others.   We also ran into the eminent early American religious historian Thomas Kidd.  Tommy is in town leading a Witherspoon Institute seminar on religion and the founding era.

Princeton 2018 Wed. 2

Telling the Princeton Seminar teachers about the work of Thomas Kidd

Participant Matt Lakemacher gets the award for the best tweet from the cemetery:

After the cemetery visit, several of us walked over to Morven, the eighteenth-century home of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  We also stopped at the Princeton Battle Monument.

It is these informal moments with the teachers that I enjoy most about the Princeton Seminar.

Here are some pics:

Princeton 2018 Wed. 5

An impromptu lesson on the first six Princeton presidents

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Princeton 2018 Wed. 7

Princeton 2018 Wed. 8We are in Philadelphia today.  Stay tuned for a report.

Day 2 of the 2018 Princeton Seminar is in the Books

Princeton 2018 TuesSee previous posts on the 2018 Gilder-Lehrman Princeton Seminar here.

Today we dove into some content.  After introductions and the showing of the classic colonial America historiography scene from Good Will Hunting, I introduced the teachers to Whig history and suggested why this is an awful way of understanding colonial America.  We talked a lot about historical thinking and how such an approach to the past might change the way we think about the era.

After a short break, I introduced the students to the New Indian History.  We talked about Dan Richter’s concept of “facing East,” James Merrell’s understanding of the “Indian’s New World,” and Richard White’s “middle ground.”

After lunch, my partner-in-crime Nate McAlister got to work with the teachers on primary source-based lesson plans on the colonial era.

We ended the day, following dinner in the Princeton dining hall, with a tour of colonial Princeton and Princeton university.  Richard, our tour guide from the Historical Society of Princeton, taught the teachers about the history of colonial New Jersey, the development of 18th-century Princeton, and the history of the university.  As always, Richard ended his tour at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room!  We all ordered our favorite beverage and spent the rest of the night solving world problems!

Princeton 2018 Tues 2

The past is a foreign country!  The past is a foreign country!

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Teachers working on their lesson plans

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Richard from the Historical Society of Princeton led a charismatic revival service in the Princeton chapel!  🙂

Whig Hall

Is “Whig history” the best way to understand colonial America?  No.

Day 1 of the Princeton Seminar is in the Books

Princeton 2018Over 30 teachers from all over the country are in Princeton this week for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History summer seminar on the “Colonial Era.”  Stay tuned for updates throughout the week.

Kudos to Nate McAlister, the 2010 National History of the Year, for helping with travel schedules and getting everyone set-up in their dorm rooms on the campus of Princeton University.  We had a casual dinner last night and gave the teachers a sense of what they could expect this week.  (One of the caterers, a 4th-grade teacher, got so excited about everything we were doing this week that she is going to consider applying next year!)  After dinner we took a short voluntary tour of the Princeton campus.

It is going to be a hot and wet week in Princeton, but spirits are high!

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Princeton 2018 2

Taking a Break in the 17th and 18th Centuries

GLI SummerNext week I will be at Princeton University for what is becoming a late July tradition.  I will be joining my partner-in-crime Nate McAlister (2010 National History Teacher of the Year!) for our annual Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History summer teacher’s seminar on colonial America.

Over thirty teachers will be in Princeton for the seminar.  We will spend the week in lectures, lesson-planning workshops, tours of Princeton and Philadelphia (the latter with the inimitable George Boudreau!), cemetery walks (Aaron Burr! Jonathan Edwards!), and explorations in Princeton’s rare books collection!


Here are some posts from the 2017 Princeton Seminar.

I am looking forward to vacationing in colonial America for the week.  It will be a nice break from Trump’s America!  After all, they say that the past is a foreign country!

We do plan on blogging through the week.  Stay tuned!

GLI Classroom