On March 31, I attended a session of the Upstate Early American History Workshop at Binghamton University, having been invited to serve as commentator for a discussion of a manuscript by John Wood Sweet. That paper, which focuses on sexual assault case and subsequent seduction lawsuit from New York in the 1790s, also serves as a fascinating window into the intricacies of evolving Anglo-American law and the ways it upheld assumptions of patriarchal power in the early republic—even as women and men used the law in creative ways to seek justice. It was a great privilege to take part in such an absorbing discussion and to get to meet John Sweet.
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."
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 highlight—and question—the 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.
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.
Today, the Junto features a post I put together with help from a lot of academic-conference-going friends on Twitter.
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: