Friday, March 21, 2014

Latest issue of Historically Speaking Now Online

Randall Stephens

The latest issue of HS is now up on the Project Muse site.  It is a longer issue than normal, featuring two forums, five essays, and four interviews.  Readers might be especially interested in our forum on Geoffrey Parker’s Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (Yale University Press, 2013), one of the most important history books of the last year.  As Don Yerxa puts it in the intro to the forum: "It has been widely heralded as an extraordinary scholarly achievement. Parker makes the case for a link between climate change and the worldwide catastrophe that occurred 350 years ago. We asked Parker to begin our forum with an account on the book’s long gestation. Then three prominent scholars, Kenneth Pomeranz, J.R. McNeill, and Jack Goldstone, comment on Global Crisis, followed by Parker’s rejoinder."

This issue, as many of our readers know, also marks an important transition for HS.  We are suspending publication for the remainder of 2014 as we forge a more sustainable operational framework. We are hopeful that some very promising developments will enable us to resume publishing a new and improved Historically Speaking in 2015.

TOC, Historically Speaking (November 2013)

"Silver and Segregation"
Wyatt Wells

"Winston Churchill and the Literary History of Politics"
Jonathan Rose

"Winston Churchill and Almighty God"
David Reagles and Timothy Larsen

"Liberal Protestantism in 20th-Century America: An Interview with
David A. Hollinger"
Conducted by Randall J. Stephens

"Catastrophe 1914: An Interview with Max Hastings"
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

Digital versus Printed Historical and Literary Editions: A Forum

"Television Is Not Radio with Pictures"
Holly Cowan Shulman

"Pouring Old Editorial Wine into New Digital Bottles"
Constance Schulz

"The Changing Production and Consumption of Historical and Literary Texts: The View from the Simms Initiatives"
David Moltke-Hansen

"The Invention of the American Meal: An Interview with Abigail Carroll"
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

"Global Crisis: A Forum The Genesis of Global Crisis"
Geoffrey Parker

"Weather, War, and Welfare: Persistence and Change in
Geoffrey Parker’s Global Crisis"
Kenneth Pomeranz

"Maunder Minimum and Parker Maximum"
J.R. McNeill

"Climate Lessons from History"
Jack A. Goldstone

Geoffrey Parker

"A Combat History of the Great War: An Interview with Peter Hart"
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

"Jewish History and Education: A Review Essay"
Philip T. Hoffman

"Töchter of Feminism: Germany and the Modern Woman Artist"
Diane Radycki

Friday, February 28, 2014

Robin Hood and Remote Rule

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe

British North America developed from a landscape of religions into a nation of races over the course of the eighteenth century.This process culminated in a hot, locked Philadelphia hall in 1787, but the lessons upon which the drafters drew reached back to the Reformation of the sixteenth century and earlier to Rome.

Americans had, after all, just rejected their inclusion in the British variant. If they failed to grasp the significance of their success, Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of Rome, David Hume’s History of England, and the tales of Robin Hood1 served to remind them of the dangers of remote rule.

Early Modern Europe possessed two empires with established Protestant populations inhabiting borders under perpetual threat.The Holy Roman Empire’s borderland Protestants included the Southwestern Germans of Wuerttemberg and the Rhineland-Palatinate, for whom “cuius regio, eius religio” offered precious little protection from neighboring Catholic armies. The British Empire sent forth Scots to settle among and pacify the Catholics a few leagues away in Northeastern Ireland. These two groups moved away from their fraught locations on Europe’s bloodiest frontiers topopulate the so-called backcountry of eighteenth-century British North America from the Kennebec to the Altamaha.2

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When Virtù Courts Virtue

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe

I found my way to this topic via a peculiar trajectory that began along the Cam under the tutelage of Quentin Skinner, where the distinction between classical republican virtù and protestant Christian virtue first entered my consciousness.  The hybridized virtù(e) that filled the political treatises of the American Revolution/War for Independence fascinated me but were not the centerpiece of my doctoral research.  When I returned to Jane Austen as my entertainment while my second son nursed, I realized that the hybridization process took place on the pages of Miss Austen’s novels.

The historiography of the American Revolution nearly drowns in examinations of Republican motherhood and patricidal rage. Austen’s heroines need not kill their fathers. They are already dead (Sense & Sensibility) or emasculated by poverty (Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park), frailty (Emma), and vanity (Persuasion).  It takes little imagination to envision Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Catherine Moreland, Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot as the republican mothers of a future generation.  In attributes they share much with the ultimate Republican mother as proven in her dual role as the United States’ first wife and mother to (failed) Presidents, Abigail Adams.  They can hold their own in discussions of the lofty but are unafraid to engage in the lowly. Think of Abigail Adams mopping her floors with vinegar while her many children lay sick, and Anne Elliot caring for her injured nephew while his squeamish mother tends to her own nerves not his physical needs.  When the virtùous Captain and Mrs. Wentworth set sail, I suspect their destination is the new republic on the other side of the Atlantic.

Thomas Jefferson obsessed over virtù(e) and corruption in both the public and private spheres.  Jefferson is remembered for his assiduous adherence to the necessity of landholding independence as a prerequisite for political virtù. He never deigned to fight in the colonies-cum-new republic’s wars though famously wrote on the worth of blood spilled for a virtùous cause.   He is also remembered for his utter lapse in private virtue, bedding but never wedding a woman he considered his racial inferior.   Jefferson was a last gasp of  this double standard in the Americas.  The widow’s of New Jersey had already become the first in Atlantic world to cast their votes in a simultaneous demonstration of both their virtù(e)s. 

Finally, I beg leave to indulge in some Whiggish analysis and imagine that William Jefferson Clinton’s presidency would have been very different indeed  had Americans not come to accept Jane Austen’s definition of hybridized virtù(e) and applied it to men and women alike.


Sources: Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic; Mary Beth Norton, Liberty’s Daughters; and Jay Fleigelman, Prodigals and Pilgrims.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Resources for Teaching History

Over the last five years the HS blog has featured a variety of posts on history teaching, curriculum, group assignments, writing, and more.  Interested in creating a class website?  Wondering about how best to encourage students to read?  Need to engage students in a session about history and historiography?  You can find what you're looking for here:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Selfie of the YOLO Generation

Steven Cromack

“Selfie” is the 2013 word of the year. In many ways, its definition encapsulates the identity of the generation that made it their own. The Millennials are rising. It is important that our teachers, school
administrators, and college professors understand the students who sit before them in their classrooms. Of course, no generation is uniform. Based on the data, however, many Millennials members agree on certain ideas.

Born between 1982 and 2003, we Millennials grew up in a rapidly changing world, and we were—and are—able to capture every moment of it through MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. We are called “the Peter Pan” and “Me Generation.” We live by social media and have made it a part of every moment of our lives. According to our elders, we are rude because we cannot look up from our phones; lazy; refuse to grow up; and play too many video games. The Baby Boomers despise our attitudes and insist that because of us the country is going to hell in a hand basket. Our teachers claim that we are a generation of idiots falling behind the rest of the world because of our ability to “txt” and write in single letters—idk—and lament that words like “selfie,” “clutch,” “gucci,” and “swag” have become part of everyday vocabulary.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Roundup: Digging up the Past

"Ancient Ancestors Come to Life," National Geographic, January 3, 2014

See our ancient ancestors come to life through paleoartist John Gurche's realistic human likenesses for the Smithsonian's Hall of Human Origins.
"The human story is really nothing short of the story of a little corner of the universe becoming aware of itself," says Gurche.>>>

Louise Iles, "Year in digs: How 2013 looked in archaeology," BBC, December 31, 2013

. . . . This year's research also gave us a glimpse into the private lives of our hominid cousins, reopening debates that might shed light on the evolution of our species.

The first complete Neanderthal genome was published, at the same time showing inbreeding within Neanderthal groups as well as reports of interbreeding between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans.>>>

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Live-Tweeting #AHA2014

Craig Gallagher

In anticipation of going to my first American Historical Association conference this past weekend in Washington D.C., I sought out a range of senior colleagues who had attended past AHA meetings for advice on what to expect. As a third-year Ph.D. candidate who is about to start writing a dissertation, I was regularly advised that many aspects of the AHA meeting did not yet apply to me, such as the Job Center, where interviews for academic positions are conducted, or the Book Exhibit where publishers meet with scholars and teachers to discuss manuscripts or books for use in the classroom.

My first AHA, therefore, was largely confined to the scholarly panels (and, I should add as a brief aside, various receptions, where I shamelessly handed out business cards and tried to score five minutes of chat with some of my favorite scholars. I was mostly successful). I attended six different panels over the four days, enjoying some immensely and others not-so-much. On the whole, I was impressed with the range of questions posed by various luminaries in my field, and – especially in the Atlantic History panels I was most interested in – the sweeping state-of-the-field discussions most papers engendered.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Day

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe

I am as giddy as a child at the prospect of a snow day. Others fret about climate change when they see -40 windchills on the weather and can’t push the door open into a snowdrift. I think about Laura Ingalls
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Wilder’s memoirs and relish the prospect of stoking the fires of memory and imagination.

Wilder’s books sparked my early interest in the past. Some of Wilder’s tales seemed similar to my own grandmother’s recollections of learning and teaching in a one room school house. My grandmother had a comparatively stable life on a comparatively prosperous farm in Illinois.  Laura followed Pa Ingalls from Wisconsin West in a series of tentative land claims. My mother read the stories aloud at bedtime. My father would pass through and groan every time Pa uprooted his family and chased further west in pursuit of a half-baked dream. I didn’t need the New Yorker to tell me Pa Ingalls was not the saint his daughter imagined him to be.  Even as a child, I couldn’t stomach the television version of Wilder's tales. Michael Landon’s Pa was so angelic that the actor needed no adaptation to his performance when he moved on to play an angel in Highway to Heaven. I craved the bits of terrifying realism that remained in the prose and faded from the screen.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

In Praise of (Electronic) Serendipity

Elliot Brandow

Old books smell delicious, apparently like a combination of grass and vanilla. Browsing the stacks offers us a chance not only to enjoy the lovely aroma but also to stumble upon that fragrant book we didn't know existed, or that we wanted, but that is just the one we needed! Ah, serendipity! It
Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University.
consistently tops, or nearly tops, the list of 20th-century library features we sorrowfully mourn. As we move ever-increasingly toward electronic-focused library collections, it seems we'll have to forgo this feature and pleasure of physical browsing.

Roger Schonfeld recently posed the question in his excellent analysis of the landscape of electronic monographs: "given that there is no hope for many libraries of recreating the single-site book collection for browsing, are there other steps that can be taken to re-establish opportunities for serendipitous discovery in the emerging environment?"

But electronic browsing and stumbling just can't compete with searching, right? The war between a browsable Yahoo Directory and Google Search is long over:  Google won. And library catalog systems and databases have been riding Google's coattails since, emphasizing ever simpler single search boxes, relegating advanced features and browsing to the corners of the screen, or removing them entirely.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Io Saturnalia!—The Roots of Christmas

Steven Cromack

Emperor Constantine I. Detail of the mosaic in Hagia Sophia.
Christmas is a fascinating holiday, and one that has been two thousand years in the making. Christmas today is the confluence of ancient traditions, Constantine Christianity, and American capitalism. The roots of the holiday lie not in the birth of a deity, but with the Roman festival of Saturnalia; it was the
Emperor Constantine who made the day about “Christ’s mass.”

The Punic Wars made some Romans very wealthy and drastically increased the number of slaves. As wealthy tyrants battled for control, many plebeians yearned for equality, identity, as well as an end to envy and despair. Out of their misery came the annual celebration known as Saturnalia. “Io Saturnalia” was a shout that embodied the reign of Saturn, a time during which there were bountiful harvests and universal plenty. The Greek satirist Lucian recorded a conversation between Cronus, known as Saturn by the Romans, and his priest about the holiday celebrated between December 17 and 25:

Drinking and being drunk, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of tremulous hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Was Santa White?

Heather Cox Richardson

Pundits have sunk their teeth into a fight recently over whether or not Santa was white. After Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly declared Santa’s whiteness was a given, some called up the history of the original St. Nicholas (the patron saint of scholars, as well as children, by the way) to point out that the historical figure was Greek and therefore probably not light-skinned. Others have responded by noting that “Santa” is a universal and timeless figure who should not be bound by any physical characteristics.

But there is a different story worth noting in this odd debate. In fact, America has its own, very specific version of “Santa” who arrived during a particular moment in American history. That moment was the 1880s, a time when the nation appeared to be reaching some kind of healing after the deep wounds of the Civil War.

By the 1880s, Americans North, South, and West, had reached a political equilibrium, and that calm appeared to be driving a healthy economy. Politicians had ceased to fight over reconstruction. Northerners had come to accept that white Democrats would control the South; northern leaders turned to new western territories to make up the electoral votes they needed to continue to hang onto national power.

After a terrible financial crash in 1873, the economy had begun to pick up again by 1878, and by 1880, Americans were feeling flush and optimistic again. They began to celebrate significant events with parties and gifts. Weddings were no longer small affairs in someone’s front parlor; now they were elegant occasions in a decorated church with a reception afterward. For the first time, parents held parties for their child’s birthday, and those invited brought gifts for the guest of honor. Thanksgiving became a major holiday, marked with feasts of turkeys, ducks, or geese.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ice Boxes vs. Refrigerators

Jonathan Rees

I’ve written previously here about the good and bad sides of suddenly being able to access the world’s biggest libraries through Google Books when you have a research project that you’d like to finish someday. Another Google experiment that debuted while I was working on Refrigeration Nation was Google Ngrams.

Ngrams, if you don’t know about them, chart the frequency of words or phrases as they appeared in volumes scanned by the Google Books project against the years that those books were published. (See Eric Schultz's post from last month.) Yes, it is incredibly easy to lose several hours playing with this research tool. Luckily for me, I already knew what I wanted to chart as soon as I heard of it:


That is the chart for “ice box” vs. “refrigerator.” (For what it’s worth, icebox [one word] looks almost identical.) What I really appreciate about that chart is that it basically illustrates something that my research already told me: before the electric household refrigerator came along, “ice boxes” were called “refrigerators.” Before explaining that statement a little better, let me define terms. While often used interchangeably with the word “refrigerator” by people over sixty, an ice box in the historical sense refers to a box with ice in it designed to keep perishable food fresh. The first ice boxes were made by carpenters in the 1840s, designed to take advantage of something new in American life: the regular household delivery of large blocks of ice that could be obtained daily in large cities and even small ones. Now, instead of going to market every day for your vegetables or fresh meats, consumers could buy for more than one day of meals at once, and keep the extra food in their ice box.