Boston Historical Events for the Week of July 21, 2014

Boston Historical EventsBoston Historical Events: A list of history-related events taking place in Boston between Monday July 21 and Sunday July 27, 2014.

 

Boston-by-Foot.gifBoston By Foot

Sunday, July 27, 2-3:30pm, Walking Tour, Harvard Square MBTA Station, $5 Members/ $15 Nonmembers, Tickets Required

Join Boston By Foot for a tour of the Cambridge Common Park. Founded in 1631, the people of Old Cambridge established the park as their common pasture.  In 1775 and 1776, the Continental Army encamped on its grounds. Today, playgrounds and ballfields occupy the park, but the historic houses, churches, and iconic buildings of Harvard University that surround it serve as reminders of over 400 years of history and architecture. Meet your guide at the entrance to the Harvard Square MBTA Station.

 

Historic-New-England-300x272.jpgHistoric New England

Saturday, July 26, 11am-1pm. Walking Tour, Otis House, $6 Members/$12 Nonmembers, Registration Recommended

Join Historic New England for a walking tour of Beacon Hill. Your knowledgeable guide will take you beyond the neighborhood’s charming brick sidewalks and gardens. On this tour you will learn about Beacon Hill’s development during the Federal era and the stories behind the fortunes, ambitions, and struggles of the neighborhood’s early residents, not all of whom had a lot of money. The program will start with a tour of the Otis House.

 

MHS-150x150.gifMassachusetts Historical Society

Monday July 21 & Tuesday July 22, 9am-5pm, World War I Workshop, $75 Registration Fee, Registration Required

The Massachusetts Historical Society presents “Massachusetts Women in the First World War,” a 2-day workshop that includes admission to the Fort Devens Museum. Women participated in the “Great War” in numerous ways, even before the United States officially entered the conflict in 1917. This workshop will explore the many activities of women during World War I by using the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Fort Devens Museum. Participants will analyze posters that used images of women as propaganda or encouraged women to participate in various efforts. They will also explore the letters, diaries, and photographs of women who volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad. This workshop is open to all K-12 educators, as well as history enthusiasts.

The $75 registration fee includes lunch both days, materials, and admission to the Fort Devens Museum.

To register complete this Registration Form and send it with your payment to: Kathleen Barker, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215. Contact education@masshist.org for more information.

 

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Book Revisions: What Went Wrong with Chapter 1?

EditI am revising my dissertation into a book called America’s First Gateway.

I began my work in earnest at the end of February 2014. Now it is July 2014 and my first chapter is still not quite done.

What’s taking so long?

In this post you will learn about the problems I have encountered with Chapter 1 and what I have done to fix those problems.

 

MistakeWhat Went Wrong with Chapter 1

Problem #1: Ambitious Outline

Chapter 1 is a brand new chapter. It needs to tell the story of how Beverwyck and its community developed into a geographic and cultural gateway to North America.

Unfortunately, I began my work in late February/early March with an outline that had me attempting to research and tell the WHOLE story of Beverwyck in one chapter, which can’t be done.

On some level I knew this couldn’t be done as it took me until early June to start writing the chapter. Even then, I only started because my writing buddy Liana Silva-Ford told me that I had to start writing.

I wrote at least 500 words a day throughout June and produced a 43-page, unfinished draft. It took me 43 pages to realize that my plans were too ambitious.

 

Problem #2: Project Fatigue

My dissertation did not cover the history of New Netherland in any meaningful way. It focused on the legacy of the Dutch in Albany, New York between 1750 and 1830. Likewise, the majority of my book will also focus on the period between 1750-1830.

With that said, my book needs to strengthen my claims about why a majority of Albany’s Dutch-descended community embraced the American Revolution and participated in the formation of New York State and the United States. To accomplish this, I must show how and why Albany appeared to be “Dutch” as late as 1750.

I love my topic, but I have been working on it for over 10 years!

My project fatigue caused me to lose focus. Without consciously realizing it, my brain latched on to Chapter 1 as an opportunity to study something new: New Netherland.

 

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Wednesday Link Roundup #58: History, Food, & Travel

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

 

History

The Journal of the American Revolution ran a series of interesting Q & A posts last week with its contributors. Topics included:

What was the Greatest Consequence of the American Revolution?

Who was the Best Husband-Wife Duo (Aside from John & Abigail Adams)?

propagandaWhat was the Most Important Diplomatic Action of the Revolutionary War?

What is Your Favorite Piece of Propaganda from the American Revolution?

What is Your Favorite Revolutionary War Site to Visit and Why?

History is Now Magazine posted “A Founding Father in London, John Adams’ Troubles.”

Mental Floss explored early 20th-century conceptions about women’s health in “11 Female Health Products from the 1908 Sears Catalog.”

Peter Feinman considered the evolution of American cemeteries.

 

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Boston Historical Events for the Week of July 14, 2014

Boston Historical EventsBoston Historical Events: A list of history-related events taking place in Boston between Monday July 14 and Sunday July 20, 2014.

 

Boston-by-Foot.gifBoston By Foot

Thursday, July 17, 6-7:30pm, Walking Tour, Arlington Street Church, $5 Members/$15 Nonmembers, Tickets Required

The “Boston Brahmins” have a reputation for being exclusive and elitist, but many of these 19th-century upper-class men and women took an active role in making Boston–and the whole nation–a better place to live. Brahmins fought to abolish slavery and recognize women’s rights. They also built libraries, colleges, museums, and orchestras.  Join Boston By Foot for “Brahmins of the Back Bay: Notable and Notorious.” Your guide will take you to see where Isabella Stewart Gardner lived before she transformed a Venetian Palace into a museum and to the home of Julia Ward Howe, a women’s rights advocate who started one of the first women’s clubs. Along the way you will also see 3 of the men’s clubs the Brahmins formed to promote contemporary art, philanthropy, and political reform. Your tour will conclude at Copley Square with a discussion of Phillips Brooks, the man who brought the social gospel to his wealthy parishioners and won the heart of Boston’s rich and poor.

Meet your guide in front of the Arlington Street Church.

 

Historic-New-England-300x272.jpgHistoric New England

Saturday, July 19, 11am-1pm. Walking Tour, Otis House, $6 Members/$12 Nonmembers, Registration Recommended

Join Historic New England for a walking tour of Beacon Hill. Your knowledgeable guide will take you beyond the neighborhood’s charming brick sidewalks and gardens. On this tour you will learn about Beacon Hill’s development during the Federal era and the stories behind the fortunes, ambitions, and struggles of the neighborhood’s early residents, not all of whom had a lot of money. The program will start with a tour of the Otis House.

 

MHS-150x150.gifMassachusetts Historical Society

Monday, July 14, 12-1pm, Brown Bag Lunch Talk, Free

Jonathan Koefoed (Indian University/Purdue University, Columbus) will discuss his research project “Cautious Romantics: The Dana Family of Boston as the Interpretive Key to a Larger Discourse.” Koefoed seeks to provide a fuller picture of the way that European Romantic texts functioned in American intellectual, cultural, and religious history. Koefoed’s project highlights a group of “Cautious Romantics” who emerged as an alternative to the conservative Romantic religious tradition in America between 1800 and the late 19th century. These “Cautious Romantics” retained a commitment to a settled social order and embraced the Trinitarian Christianity that the Transcendentalists and their Unitarian predecessors had abandoned. Koefoed’s lunch time talk will focus on how the Dana Family functions as a critical lens through which we can view the larger Cautious Romantic discourse.

 

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Part 2: Megan Marshall on Writing Biography

MeganMarshallOn Tuesday June 10, 2014, I had the opportunity to hear Megan Marshall speak at an intimate gathering for writers. Marshall won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.

During her talk, Marshall shared a number of insights and tips about writing.

In this 3 part series, you will discover how Megan Marshall approaches her narratives, handles the task of writing the biography of a person others have explored, and how she found her writing style.

In this post you will learn how Marshall handles the task of writing the biography of a person others have already explored.

 

Megan Marshall’s Approach to Biography

How do you handle the task of writing a biography of a person that others have already explored?

Marshall answered that biographers often find other biographers who are working on the same subject at the same time.

For example, Marshall had wanted to write a biography about Margaret Fuller in the 1970s. She shelved the project when she realized that Charles Capper had just published a 2-volume biography on Fuller.  Marshall worked on The Peabody Sisters instead. She revived her project in the early 2000s when she realized that people had forgotten about Fuller.

Amazon ImageMarshall started her project by reading Capper’s 2-volume biography, which she found too inaccessible for non-academics. This experience prompted Marshall to plan a single volume biography that would appeal to general readers.

As Marshall worked on her book, she discovered that John Matteson was also writing a biography on Fuller. Matteson published his biography a year before Marshall’s came out.

Marshall said it doesn’t matter that multiple biographers are working on the same subject, you will write the book you are destined to write. In her case, Matteson wrote about Fuller’s relationship with her father, not Fuller’s full story.

Marshall says biographers must be confident that they can get at the lives of their subjects in a way that other biographers cannot.

She also acknowledged the advantage that comes from other’s work.

In the case of Margaret Fuller, Marshall spent more time thinking about the nature of biography than in locating sources because she was able to mine the footnotes/endnotes in the other biographies.

Marshall’s Margaret Fuller contains new insights and research, but because she did not have to spend as much time on research, Marshall focused her energies on writing a biography that reads like a novel. Margaret Fuller contains characters, tension, episodes, landscapes, cityscapes, and descriptions that you would encounter in a novel, but Marshall did not make up any of her descriptions, characters, or episodes. All of the conversations Marshall presents occurred in Fuller’s letters.

 

Conclusion

Marshall imparted advice that extends beyond the biography genre.

All historians will encounter other scholars who are working on the same or similar topics.

Rather then guard our facts and sources, we should assist each other in our shared work because in the end we are all destined to write the books and articles we will write. We might even write better books and articles if we share.

IdeasLike biographers, historians must also be confident that we can get our subjects in a way that other historians cannot.

 

What Do You Think?

What do you think of Marshall’s tacit call for more collaboration among scholars?

For more on how Megan Marshall approaches biographies, see Kathleen C. Stone’s “The Biographer’s Art: A Conversation with Megan Marshall.”

 

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