Does Scholarship on the American Revolution Lack Originality?

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailOn April 9, 2015, the Massachusetts Historical Society convened “‘So Sudden an Alteration’: The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the American Revolution,” a conference to discuss the present state of scholarship on the American Revolution.

The conference marked the second in a three-part series aimed at reigniting interest and work on the American Revolution. (The first conference, Revolution Reborn, took place in June 2013.)

Over two and half days, conference-goers attended nine sessions that explored new scholarship centered on the American Revolution. They also listened to two keynote addresses that lamented the state of the field and its lack of “originality.”

In this post, you will discover a recap of some of the new scholarship on the American Revolution, the two keynote addresses, and my take on whether or not the field suffers from an “originality crisis.”


New Scholarship

‘So Sudden an Alteration’ offered attendees the opportunity to attend seven of nine sessions that previewed the works-in-progress of approximately twenty-eight historians of the American Revolution.

The sessions included new work on the Stamp Act crisis, the Boston Massacre, slavery, the War for Independence, revolutionary settlements, and the global nature of the Revolution.

Below you will find brief summaries of the work offered at three panels to give you a feel for the scholarship discussed.


Session 1: The Stamp Act

The conference opened with a look at the Stamp Act.

1765_one_penny_stampNancy Siegel explored the imagery of the Stamp Act crisis and the subsequent discord between Great Britain and her thirteen North American colonies. She noted how printmakers employed a satirical mother and daughter motif in their images—printers often portrayed North America as a bare-breasted Native American female warrior— and explored how those images changed over time. Siegel noted that visual satire allowed Britons to express and discuss their views on the imperial crisis as it unfolded.

Craig Smith examined the Stamp Act from the angle of honor. He argues that the colonists had a strong sense of honor—reputation based on an individual’s proper conduct—and that the passage of the Stamp Act violated it. Parliament challenged the colonists’ honor by implying that like deadbeats, the colonists would not contribute to the well being of the empire without legislation. Furthermore, by passing the Stamp Act without their consent, Parliament relegated the colonists to a slave-like status; slaves did not have honor because they lacked both freedom and independence.

Richard D. Brown commented that both papers serve as a “launching point” for a discussion of American identity creation. They also offer interesting examples of how we might use gender and culture as lenses to view the events of the American Revolution.

Read More

Leave a Comment

Wednesday Link Roundup #93: Conferences and History

Warren Link RoundupWednesday Link Roundup: Links to the most interesting history, news, and writing posts that passed through my RSS and Twitter feeds over the last week.

OAH Annual Meeting

Rick Shenkman posted Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 “Highlights of the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians.”

History News Network posted a video of Patty Limerick’s presidential address: “Historians as Public Intellectuals.”

The OAH helpfully rounded up tweets from several of its panels in “Tweets from the 2015 Annual Meeting.”


NCPH Annual Meeting

The National Council on Public History annual meeting also took place last week. You will find many tweets by searching the hashtag: #NCPH2015.

Since June of last year, Jason Steinhauer has advocated for History Communicators. Steinhauer used the NCPH annual meeting to jumpstart conversation about adding the role to the profession. You can find out more in “History Communicators is Launched.”

Read More

Leave a Comment

Boston Historical Events for the Week of April 20, 2015

Boston Historical EventsBoston Historical Events: A list of history-related events taking place in Boston between Monday April 20 and Sunday April 26, 2015.


BPLBoston Public Library

Wednesday, April 22, 6-7:30pm, Author Talk, Copley Square, Free

Nathan Gorenstein will discuss his new book Tommy Gun Winter: Jewish Gangsters, a Preacher’s Daughter, and the Trial That Shocked 1930s Bostonr. Gorenstein tells the tale of two brothers, an MIT graduate, and a minister’s daughter who once competed for newspaper headlines with John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. Their crimes and the dogged investigation that followed them led to the longest murder trial in Massachusetts State history. Gorenstein explores how the Boston saga of sex, ethnicity, and bloodshed made this trio and their “red-headed gun moll” infamous in Depression-era America.


MHSMassachusetts Historical Society

Tuesday, April 21, 2-4pm, Public Program, Free, RSVP Requested

In celebration of school vacation week, the MHS presents “Comic History: Making Your Own History Comic,” a Family Day of Programing for Young Historians, Parents, and Grandparents. Historian John Bell will tell the stories of the Boston Stamp Act riots in 1765 from the point of view of an 18th-century child. After the talk, local comic book artists will help the young historians create their own historical comic depicting the story of the Boston Liberty Tree and Stamp Act riots.


Tuesday, April 21, 5:30pm Reception, 6-7pm, Lecture, Free, RSVP Requested

Author Jason Rodriguez will discuss Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750, a graphic novel collection of 20 stories centered in colonial New England from 1620 through 1750. These illustrated tales include stories about free thinkers, Pequots, Jewish settlers, female business owners, and dedicated school teachers. Whales and livestock and issues of slavery and frontier life also appear in the book. As the editor, Rodriguez will discuss the process of putting this collection together, ensuring historical accuracy, and how he selected the topics to be covered.

Read More

Leave a Comment

The Junto Blog Interview

Liz BFWorldLast week, Michael Hattem of The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History interviewed me about Ben Franklin’s World and my alternate career path.

Here’s an excerpt:

JUNTO: What is your academic/historical background?

LIZ COVART: My historical background consists of training in both academic and public history. In terms of my academic training, I worked with William Pencak and Amy Greenberg as an undergraduate at the Pennsylvania State University. In graduate school, I honed my historical research, writing, and thinking skills with Alan Taylor at the University of California, Davis. My initial training in public history began at Boston National Historical Park where I worked as a seasonal interpretive ranger for five seasons. The wonderful experience I had interacting with the public has prompted me to seek out internships and volunteer opportunities with historical societies since 2007.


JUNTO: Can you tell us a bit about your post-PhD, alt-ac experience?

LC: My post-PhD experience has been one of experimentation. About three years before I graduated I started having doubts about whether the “traditional” tenure-track career path was the path for me. I wanted a job that combined serious historical research, with the public history goal of helping people connect with their past. Since 2012, I have explored numerous opportunities in academic and public history. Today, I work as an independent scholar. I am fashioning a career as a hybrid academic-public historian, a position that represents the not-so-distant future of the historical profession. This hybrid position involves historical research and writing, collaboration between academic and public historians, opportunities to experiment with conveying history through new media, and chances to interact with colleagues and non-specialists at conferences and events.

Continue Reading


Leave a Comment

Wednesday Link Roundup #92: King George III & the American Revolution

George III Link RoundupWednesday Link Roundup: Links to the most interesting history, news, and writing posts that passed through my RSS and Twitter feeds over the last week.



Miss the second Revolution Reborn conference, “So Sudden an Alteration?” Michael Hattem storifyed all the tweets.

The private papers of King George III will be digitized.

Mental Floss explains “Why Benjamin Franklin Hated the Letter ‘C.’

Ever wonder “How India Pale Ale Got its Name?”

Smithsonian discusses the “Gentlemen’s Agreement that Ended the Civil War.”



The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture would like to give you a fellowship to study the papers of King George III in England. Application Deadline: May 1, 2015



The Journal of the American Revolution announced its second “Rev War Schmoozer.” Party Date: May 8, 2015


Conference Recaps

I have been busy attending conferences. Last week Revolution Reborn #2, this week the National Council on Public History annual meeting.

I plan to have conference recaps posted in the next couple of weeks. I just need to carve time to write them.


Leave a Comment