Review: The Common Cause

My review of Robert Parkinson's new book The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution is now available at the Institute of Historical Research's website.

Combining research on particular patriot newspapers and on the ways the American Revolution appeared in print during the 1770s and 1780s, Parkinson's book shows that publicity surrounding the rebel war effort helped establish a crucial basis for racism in the early United States. My review calls this "an account that deserves attention from any historian studying early American national identity, racism, western expansion, or print culture, not to mention historians studying the Revolution itself."

Identity and the Founders: A Response to Mark Lilla

The Junto today carries my thoughts on an op-ed published in yesterday's New York Times by the distinguished historian-of-ideas Mark Lilla. The op-ed argues that the 2016 presidential election demonstrated the weakness of "identity liberalism." Celebrations of diversity, Lilla writes, cannot compete successfully with appeals to the "shared destiny" of all Americans.

In my response, I highlightand questionthe way Lilla invokes the American founding and other elements of early American political history. Although I agree that politicians in a republic must appeal to the common good, and I sympathize with Lilla in his concern that liberals have not always effectively done so, I argue Lilla has overlooked the way American nationhood itself is an identity politics. Healthy republican political activism, I suggest, is a matter of continuously constructing an inclusive "people," not taking the founding character of the nation for granted.

Making a Webpage for a Conference Paper

For an upcoming conference, I'm developing what I call a "companion webpage" for the paper I've written. My chief goal is to create a resource for people in the room, but I also want it to be a sort of virtual middle ground for people following the conference remotely and curious about the presentation. I wrote about the idea for The Junto.

SHEAR 2016 Roundtable: Pros and Cons of Social Media

At this weekend's 38th annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic in New Haven, I joined a roundtable panel including Mark Cheathem, Liz Covart, Ken Owen, and Whitney Martinko to discuss the uses of social media for early American historians.

Thanks to several audience members livetweeting the session, the conversation can be reconstructed reasonably well on Storify:

What Do Early Americanists Offer the Liberal Arts?

Today at The Junto, I have a post intended to contribute marginally to the latest round of why-and-whither-the-humanities essays.

Instead of making a case for the liberal arts, though, I ask what early American studies per se can offer the liberal arts. Obviously, early Americanists should be able to do whatever any other historians can do for a person's education. But what can we offer that is distinctive?

I argue that early American scholarship has typically been understood as useful for civic and political reasons. But we also need to be able to explain how it matters for humane reasons. I hope to put up a post next week to explore some possible solutions.

 Course of study for Amherst College students in 1824, from the college   Catalogue   (printed at Northampton, Mass.)

Course of study for Amherst College students in 1824, from the college Catalogue (printed at Northampton, Mass.)