Welcome to my new blog (I previously blogged at Function Follows Forme, but this will be my primary blog from now on) which will track changes, trends, and issues in the study, teaching, and publishing of American History as well as academic librarianship. I hope you find it useful and interesting.
My first post will offer an overview of some the new journal literature published at the end of the year, with a few references to publications earlier in 2013.
Early American Studies‘ Fall 2013 edition was dedicated to Mathew Carey. These articles emerged from the “Ireland, America, and the Worlds of Mathew Carey” conference in Philadelphia in October 2011. The abstract of the “Afterward” notes that the conference examined Carey’s life and career through the lenses of “the history of the book, the history of political economy, and the history of the Irish in America.” The South Atlantic Quarterly‘s Fall 2013 issue focused on “Religion and the Futures of Blackness,” which includes a series of nine articles heavy on theory (pp. 589-780). International Labor and Working-Class published a special issue on “Strikes and Social Conflicts” in its Spring 2013 issue. Most of the articles dealt with areas outside the U.S., but Americanists should take note of the symposium on “Cesar Chávez and the United Farm Workers” (pp. 143-169). Radical History Review‘s Fall 2013 issue is dedicated to “Radical Histories in Digital Culture,” including articles on the hacker collective Anonymous, Wikileaks, and remembering and forgetting in a digital age. American Political Thought‘s Fall 2013 edition had a symposium on Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913), drawn from work introduced at the Charles Beard, Economic History, and Interpretation Conference of April 2013. The October 2013 edition of the American Journal of Legal History has a symposium on “Teaching Legal History in U.S. Law Schools.” The Pacific Historical Review (November 2013) contains a special issue on “Chicano/a History: Looking Forward after Forty Years.”
Colonial Era & The Early American Republic
Sarah M. S. Pearsall (Cambridge University) broke into the American Historical Review with her article, “‘Having Many Wives’ in Two American Rebellions: The Politics of Households and the Radically Conservative,” (pp. 1001-1028). The article presents some findings that will likely be expanded upon in her forthcoming book on the history of polygamy in what is now the continental United States. In the November 2013 editions of History Compass, Ruma Chopra (San Jose State University) provides a historiographic overview of the Loyalists in “Enduring Patterns of Loyalist Study: Definitions and Contours” (pp. 983–993).
Particularly interesting is J.M. Opal‘s (McGill University) “General Jackson’s Passports: Natural Rights and Sovereign Citizens in the Political Thought of Andrew Jackson, 1780s-1820s” (Studies in American Political Development, October 2013, pp. 69-85). Opal notes that Jackson was a borderland leader who was not particularly connected to any state after the Revolution and that wars of the 1790s pushed the future president to imagine himself in a state of nature, which allowed the people to be as violent as necessary to protect themselves and their fragile communities.
Also, the city of Baltimore takes center stage in S.C. Arndt’s “Bringing Books into Baltimore: Tracing Networks of Textual Importation, 1760-1825” (Book History, 2013, pp. 62-82). Arndt notes that Baltimore was one of the fastest growing cities in the nation from 1790-1820 and that this led to massive book imports to satiate demand as the city did not have a large book publishing industry. The case study provides an opportunity to trace how Baltimore knitted itself into the Atlantic World and how diverse groups influenced the flow of texts.
The December 2013 edition of Civil War History focuses on the traumatic experiences of war. The articles examine patient records, suicide, and cowardice.
International and Transnational History
Various journals issued articles relating to America and the world. Jason W. Smith’s “The Bound[less] Sea: Wilderness and the United. States Exploring Expedition in the Fiji Islands” appeared in October 2013’s Environmental History (pp. 710-737). Focusing on the creation of nautical charts by a scientific expedition to the Pacific island in May-August 1840, Smith argues these documents allowed Americans to understand and control a seemingly inhospitable region in order to incorporate it into their commercial realm.
The Journal of the Early American Republic has two excellent articles on America’s interactions with the world. Michael A. Verney’s (graduate student, University of New Hampshire) “An Eye for Prices, an Eye for Souls: Americans in the Indian Subcontinent, 1784-1838” (pp. 397-431) describes the shift from the positive descriptions of India by American merchants before the War of 1812 to a more prejudicial view expressed by missionaries after the war. David Head‘s (Spring Hill College) “Slave Smuggling by Foreign Privateers: The Illegal Slave Trade and the Geopolitics of the Early Republic” (pp. 433-462) describes the ability of French and Spanish privateers to bring slaves to the U.S. after 1808 because of weak American laws and the wars of the Napoleonic era.
W. Caleb McDaniel‘s (Rice University) “The Case of John L. Brown: Sex, Slavery, and the Trials of a Transatlantic Abolitionist Campaign” (American Nineteenth Century History, pp. 141-159) examines how the sluggish reception of information in the transatlantic abolitionist network could create unanticipated outcomes. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era published Katherine D. Moran‘s (University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point) “Catholicism and the Making of the U.S. Pacific,” an article that notes that American Protestants were able to celebrate particular aspects of Catholicism and its history in order to build and reinforce American empire in the Pacific. The 2013 edition of Book History published Julie Irene Prieto’s (graduate student, Stanford University) “‘The Sword and the Book’: The Benjamin Franklin Library and U.S.-Mexican Relations, 1936-1962,” which describes what was considered the flagship institution of book diplomacy during the Second World War and the early Cold War. Prieto notes that the popularity of the library peaked in the 1940s, when it was seen as an aspect of democratic partnership between the two nations, and then dwindled by the early 1960s when it became a propaganda vehicle.
The November 2013 edition of Diplomatic History has a strong issue that examines the 1954 Mutual Peace Pact between the U.S. and Taiwan, CIA support for the anti-communist left in Latin America, U.S. assistance to the Ba’th regime in Iraq in 1963, the failure of U Thant’s mediation to the end the Vietnam War, Nixon’s SALT policy, and the Carter Administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Several interesting pieces on history and colleges and universities appeared. In Historically Speaking, a truly stellar history newsletter, James M. Banner laments the “The Almost Nonexistent History of Academic Departments” (September 2013, pp. 14-15). John L. Puckett and Mark Frazier Lloyd (both at University of Pennsylvania) note that the University of Pennsylvania used federal urban renewal money to grow immensely from 1949-1979 and that town and gown built strong partnerships as a result (The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, October 2013, 381-430). The Journal of Southern History published “The Battle over Power, Control, and Academic Freedom at Southern Institutions of Higher Education, 1955–1965,” by Joy Ann Williamson-Lott (University of Washington) in its November 2013 issue. Williamsson-Lott focuses on McCarthyism and anticommunist sentiment at the University of Arkansas, and examines the censures organized by the American Association of University Professors.
The new literature of the 20th century is so rich and varied that it truly deserves its own digest, but these morsels will have to do.
Several interesting articles appeared on civil rights. Christopher A. Baylor’s “First to the Party: The Group Origins of the Partisan Transformation on Civil Rights, 1940-1960” (Studies in American Political Development, October 2013, pp. 111-141) looks at an unexplained contradiction that appears in the current trend to look at the long civil rights movement: why did labor, which was traditionally hostile to African Americans, decide to embrace black rights? He looks at how the NAACP and CIO reassessed their goals and worked together to move the Democratic Party toward civil rights. In the Journal of American History (December 2013), Tom Adam Davies (graduate student, University of Leeds) notes in “Black Power in Action: The Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Robert F. Kennedy, and the Politics of Urban Crisis,” that liberal reformers tried to move African Americans away from militancy during the black power era. This Brooklyn case study looks at how the Community Development Corporation worked locally.
The new editors at New York History have the journal firing on all cylinders again. Amidst a series of articles on the 17th-19th centuries in the Winter/Spring 2013 issue, there is one 20th century urban history piece: Jeffrey A. Kroessler’s “New York History Beyond the Bridge: The Unfinished Staten Island Parkways of Robert Moses and the Presevation of the Greenbelt.”
Steven Rosales (University of Arkansas) used interviews with Chicano veterans of the Vietnam War to discuss the variety of masculine identities (both gay and straight) in “Macho Nation? Chicano Soldiering, Sexuality, and Manhood during the Vietnam War Era” (Oral History Review, Summer-Fall 2013, 299-324). Lucas Hilderbrand (University of California, Irvine) uses a vibrant print culture of gay magazines and the travel writing in them to describe the emergence of gay public culture in “A Suitcase Full of Vaseline, or Travels in the 1970s Gay World” (Journal of the History of Sexuality, September 2013, 373-402). Catherine O. Jacquet’s “The Giles-Johnson Case and the Changing Politics of Sexual Violence in the 1960s United States” (Journal of Women’s History, Fall 2013, 188-211) uses “the Giles-Johnson case, an instance of alleged black-on-white sexual violence, to examine how white mainstream America embraced the trope of the lying white woman at this time” (quote from abstract).
I’ll end with two articles that caught my eye for personal reasons. At Yale I saw an advertisement for a talk that mentioned “the growing field of animal history.” I knew about some of this literature – Virginia DeJohn Anderson’s Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America and Jon Coleman’s Vicious: Wolves and Men in America come to mind – but never knew there was a school of animal history. This put me on the look out for some work on animal history and found “The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States” an intriguing piece by Etienne Benson (University of Pennsylvania) in the December 2013 issue of Journal of American History. Benson reports that squirrels only became urban dwellers in the second half of the 19th century and their willingness to take charity from humans, “provided an opportunity to promote a vision of community that cut across species boundaries to include certain animals and exclude certain humans” (quotation from abstract). This will be good reading after Squirrel-gate this fall at Yale.
Lastly, as a historian of reading, Rosie Germain’s (University of Cambridge) article “Reading The Second Sex in 1950s America” in the December 2013 issue of The Historical Journal caught my eye. She notes that Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist classic was read widely, but rejected by most Americans for a number of cultural reasons, but especially the book’s denigration of motherhood.
Be on the look out for my follow up article on recent university press books on American history and a series of posts titled “What is in that Database?”