Friday, April 18, 2014

A Dude Ranch in the Middle of Sussex, England


From British Pathe videos

Lecture at Lancaster.Org

Yesterday I drove down to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a lecture at LancasterHistory.Orgthe product of a merger between two historical organizations in Lancaster: The Lancaster Historical Society and the James Buchanan Foundation for the Preservation of Wheatland.  As I have written before, has taken the name of a web domain and thus has a significant online presence, but the organization is housed in a new and very impressive building with a lecture hall, exhibits, a museum store, and a research library.

I am guessing that about sixty or seventy people came out for a late afternoon lecture on a beautiful central Pennsylvania Holy/Maundy Thursday.  I cut back on my standard "Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?" talk in order to leave more time for questions from the audience.  We had an interesting conversation about Jefferson's prediction that religion would eventually disappear from American life, the words "In God We Trust" on currency, how to define "Christian Nation," and the Treaty of Tripoli.  I even met a former student.  Sarah Huber took my United States survey course seven or eight years ago when she was a student at Messiah.  It was good to touch base.  I also met Jack Fischel, a retired Jewish Studies professor who teaches a course on the Holocaust at Messiah.

I have never had my speaking style described as "evangelical" before, but that was the word President and CEO Tom Ryan used to describe the lecture.  I am not sure what to make of this.

Thanks to Tom and Felice Ethun (Director of Education and Public Programming) for the invitation to speak.

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

1. Gina Barecca on Sloth
2. The Department Chair as Admission Counselor and the Fate of the Humanities On Our Campuses
3. Why Reading Matters
4. Coca-Cola Executive: Liberal Arts is Best Preparation for Business Careers
5. Kathryn Lofton on Secularization
6. Sunday Night Odds and Ends--April 13, 2014
7. Storifying the OAH 2014 Panel on the Legacy of Edmund Morgan
8. Reflections on "The State of the Field: The Trans-Atlantic Enlightenment"
9. Storify: "Is Blogging Scholarship?"
10. A Few Thoughts on OAH Panel "Is Blogging Scholarship"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Black Law School Students Challenge the Legacy of Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
A group of African-American law students at Washington and Lee University in Virginia have asked the university to confront its racist past. Here is a taste from an article in Inside Higher Ed:

Black law students at Washington and Lee University, under a new group called "The Committee," have asked Washington and Lee University to take a series of steps to address "the racist and dishonorable conduct of Robert E. Lee." Lee served as president of the university after the Civil War, and has historically been revered at the institution. The Committee is calling on the university to observe the Martin Luther King Day as a formal day off, to stop allowing "neo-confederates to march on campus with Confederate flags on Lee-Jackson day," and to formally apologize "for the university's participation in chattel slavery" and "Robert E. Lee's participation in slavery."
A statement from the university noted that it does hold events to mark Martin Luther King Day every year, and that a decision to call off classes would have to be made by the faculty. The statement does not go into a detailed response on the other demands, but says that the university welcomes discussion on these issues and that "in terms of the other issues that the students have raised, we will give them all careful consideration."

“Hawaiian Border Crossings: Capital, Commodities, and Bodies” at the 2014 OAH

Here is another OAH 2014 report from our correspondent Charles McCrary.  Check out his previous (and very popular) post on secularization here. --JF

On Saturday morning at OAH I saw an excellent panel on Hawaiian history. The collection of three papers, each from a PhD student presenting dissertation research, focused on capitalism, material culture, environmental history, bodies, and the intersections among these. I will provide a brief summary of the session, and, though I won’t be able to do justice to the quality of the papers, I hope to alert readers to some of the exciting new work in the burgeoning field of Pacific history.

Gregory Rosenthal presented a paper, drawn from his SUNY–Stony Brook dissertation, on contestations over Chinese and native Hawaiian workers’ bodies on Hawaiian sugar plantations. Chinese workers started to arrive in Hawai’i in 1852, as native Hawaiian labor was beginning to decline along with the downturn in previously lucrative markets like fur seal hunting, guano mining, and whaling. The islands were turning to sugar plantations. Americans on Hawai‘i, such as the leaders of The Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society (RHAS), debated the pros and cons of Hawaiian and Chinese bodies’ labor. Hawaiians were, in the RHAS’s view, “amphibious beings,” not well suited for work in the cane fields and harder to coerce than the Chinese. The Chinese, though, were more expensive to feed, since they preferred to eat rice, which was expensive to import. In this environment, where everyone was comparing Chinese and Hawaiian workers—including the workers themselves, who competed and conflicted with each other—bodies were racialized according to their “natural” proclivities as well as hairstyles, clothes, and food preferences.

Furthering the discussion of food and drink consumption, Hi‘ilei Hobart, a PhD student in the food studies program at NYU, used ice as a lens through which to understand colonialism, capitalism, and racialization. Ice, Hobart demonstrated, was a “tool for empire-building.” Prior to the 1860s, though, efforts to import it had been infrequent and mostly unsuccessful. Advertisements, many of which focused on all the wonderful chilled cocktails now available, catered to Anglo-Americans understandings of themselves as refined, racializing non-white bodies, which apparently did not need ice. After all, they hadn’t asked for it. Although, neither had Anglo-Americans until recently. In this way, the “need” for ice in Hawai‘i was created in order to differentiate Anglo-Americans from those they wanted to distance as racially other.

Lawrence Kessler presented research on the sugarcane economy from 1835 to 1875. Like Rosenthal, he discussed the RHAS, though Kessler focused on the changes taking place in Hawaiian missionary culture at the society’s founding in 1851. Traditionally, the missionaries to Hawai‘i, most of them associated with the ABCFM, had discouraged growing sugar, since the primary way to make it a profitable export was to distill it into rum. Engaging in the rum trade would be immoral, and rum consumption on the islands would promote vice. However, over time some softened their anti-sugar stance and started growing it in small quantities for consumption. As Hawaiian exports were drying up with the decline of whaling and other industries, Americans in Hawai‘i started allowing and even promoting sugar planting. What emerged, according to Kessler, was a sort of hybridized plantation system. Missionaries and their families used sugar plantations to instill American Protestant virtues and an agrarian work ethic, but substituted the capitalist system of wage labor for the more traditional understanding of landed agrarianism and commodity-based economies.

As Jennifer Newell indicated in her response to the papers, the panel suggested intriguing new ways forward for discussing the intersections between environmental history and the history of global capitalism. In the second half of the nineteenth century the Hawaiian Islands underwent a transition from an extractive economy to an export economy. This transition had global implications. During the discussion Rosenthal pointed out that a focus on Hawai‘i allows us to see the flows of capital, commodities, and people that “globalized” capitalist economies. The California Gold Rush, coal mining in Pennsylvania, political unrest in the Spanish empire, the sea otter population in the North Pacific—all of these events were global realities, and all factor into Hawaiian history. As more cultural historians pay attention to economic and environmental history, they should look to some of the exciting and generative work being done in Pacific histories as an apt model. 

The Department Chair as Admission Counselor and the Fate of the Humanities On Our Campuses

I learned yesterday that two honors students have committed to Messiah College to study history.  This news made my day. I have been courting these students for a few months now.  I know their names. I have met their families. I even know their favorite historical era.

As humanities enrollments decline across the country it has become necessary for department chairs and other faculty members at colleges like Messiah to get  more involved in the admissions process.  The days of leaving recruitment solely in the hands of the college admissions staff are over. Departments like ours need to make a compelling case to prospective students and their parents about the value of a history degree.  We at Messiah College have done well on this front.  We have thought hard and long about what our students can do with a history major after graduation. We have developed a career plan that begins with a first-year "Introduction to History" course heavily focused on career development.  I have also devoted an entire chapter of my Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past to the question "What Can You Do With a History Major?"  (This year we began giving a copy of this book to some of our prospective students and it appears to have paid off in the form of a modest increase in the number of incoming history majors). We have developed a new Public History concentration to attract students and have brought the department more fully into the world of the digital humanities.  A lot is happening in the Messiah College History Department and we are proud of the work that has been and continues to be accomplished.

But a history major continues to be a hard sell in today's economic climate. I have had to fight tooth and nail for every new major.  I have made more phone calls, sent more e-mails, and composed more hand-written notes than I ever have before.  I have appealed to the Admissions Office and Financial Aid Office for better packages for accepted students.  At this point I am one step short of making visits--Bear Bryant style--to the living rooms of prospective history majors.  ("What would it take to get you in a Messiah College History Department uniform?")

As a Department Chair I get one course reduction per semester to handle my administrative and recruitment duties.  The work I put into recruiting students alone is far more than the time it would take me to simply teach another section of the United States survey course.  Yet I remain committed to building a very strong History Department at Messiah College--both in terms of the faculty we hire and the students we bring to study with us.  I continue to see this as necessary work.

But I am also sympathetic to history department chairs at small colleges like Messiah who do not take their work as recruiters very seriously.  In order to sell a program to prospective students you have to have a strong program to sell.  You have to believe in your product.  Many colleges have abandoned a commitment to the humanities (and liberal arts more broadly).  Yes, they still offer courses in history, English, philosophy, foreign languages, etc..., but they tend to understand the courses that humanities faculty teach in terms of service to the larger and more attractive professional programs.  I have been around the country--as an external reviewer and as a visiting lecturer--and have talked to a lot of faculty members and administrators. The latter are talking online learning, STEM, professional training, and money-making graduate programs. College administrators are rarely speaking the language of undergraduate liberal arts.  Why work hard at recruiting new history majors when administrators are cutting faculty lines, reducing budgets, and chipping away at what were once proud departments.  This can only result in a sort of malaise among the humanities faculty as they lose more and more confidence in the administration's willingness to see their disciplines as essential to a college's liberal arts mission.

Some schools are trying to hold the liberal arts line (I talked to faculty from a few of them this weekend), but such schools are becoming fewer and fewer in number.

The Author's Corner with Dawn Marsh

Dawn Marsh is Assistant Professor of History at Purdue University. This interview is based on her new book, A Lenape Among the Quakers (University of Nebraska Press, March 2014).

JF: What led you to write A Lenape Among the Quakers?

DM: It began with the publication of the document "An Examination of Hannah Freeman," c. 1797 in the Notes and Documents section of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. It stood out because it was identified as the oldest autobiography of a Native American, but more importantly it captured the voice of a Native American woman in the eighteenth century. The document is a deposition conducted by Moses Marshall for the purpose of admitting Hannah Freeman into the newly built Chester County poorhouse. The document and subsequent sources opened a window into the life of a Lenape woman during one of the most traumatic periods in the history of her people and the history of Pennsylvania. As a Native American historian and a Pennsylvanian by birth, I knew that the mythologized version of William Penn’s “peaceable kingdom” over-shadowed a more complicated story of early settlement and interaction with Pennsylvania Indians. Hannah Freeman’s story, situated largely in Chester County offers another perspective on this story.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of A Lenape Among the Quakers?

DM: Hannah Freeman’s life challenges the mythologized “peaceable kingdom” narrative by establishing that colonization and dispossession are never peaceful. Further, Hannah’s story shows that acculturation was a two-way exchange: both Hannah and her Quaker neighbors moderated and altered their lives to accommodate each other in order to preserve and protect their ways of life and live as neighbors on the lands guaranteed to the Lenape by William Penn’s treaties.

JF: Why do we need to read A Lenape Among the Quakers​​​​?

DM: Hannah Freeman's story is one of resilience, tenacity, and cooperation. There are few histories of colonial America that give readers a chance to understand what life was like for a Native American woman during the eighteenth century. It moves beyond the usual histories of settler-Indian relations and offers readers an intimate view of day to day co-existence between English settlers and Native Americans. Hannah Freeman’s quiet life in a rural corner of the British colonies was touched and altered by some of the most important events in early American history. It is also a story of courage, suspense, bravery and heart. The book is meticulously researched to satisfy and encourage new scholarship. But it is written as a narrative that invites general readers, students, and scholars to better understand the experiences of Native American women and families during this period.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

DM: Well—I should begin by saying that I don’t consider myself an American historian. My research and teaching interests are primarily in Native American and Indigenous history. Several of my projects use global comparisons with other indigenous peoples under British colonialism: Maori in New Zealand and Aborigines in Australia as example.

As for my chosen profession, there are several threads that weave through my life that led me to this career. I grew up in Appalachian Pennsylvania and was surrounded by rivers, creeks, mountains, and trails that retained their Algonquian names. I also had the good fortune to regularly visit Gettysburg during my formative years that further enhanced my fascination for the invisible past that was all around me. As I earned my Ph.D in history, I cross trained in archaeology. I was able to weave together a career that allowed me to do research both in the archives and the field. My first major research project for my M.A. investigated how the archaeological record impacted a historian’s interpretation of the Paxton Massacre—the career path was set.

JF: What is your next project?

DM: Currently I have two book-length research projects in their early stages. The first is titled The Sons of Peace: Delaware Indian Nationalism in the Early American Republic-- will examine the political and social transformation of the Delaware from the 1750s to the 1830s situated largely in western Pennsylvania and Ohio territories. Three avenues of investigation provide the framework for this study. First, is the close examination of Delaware leadership during this period considering the sources of power and the transition from traditional clan-based paths of leadership to new channels of political authority. Secondly, the role of Quaker mediators during this period and finally, I will study the characteristics of Delaware towns and refugee settlements that rise and fall in relationship to those leaders.

The second project, already under contract is titled, The Red Carpet: Indigenous Filmmakers Beyond the Rez, examines the impact of indigenous filmmakers on the representations of indigenous peoples in mainstream narrative and documentary films over the last twenty-five years. This project stems from my experience as a film critic in southern California and my expertise in Native American and indigenous studies.

Thank you, Dawn!

Thanks to Megan Piette for organizing and facilitating The Author's Corner

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coca-Cola Executive: Liberal Arts Is Best Preparation for Business Careers

Clyde Tuggle of Coca Cola
Clyde Tuggle is the chief public affairs officer at Coca-Cola.  He majored in German and Economics at Hamilton College and then went on to get an M.Div from Yale Divinity School. Tuggle recently told a group of students at Washington and Lee College that the fields he chose to study provided him with "the perfect education for the business world."  Here is a taste of an article about his talk from the Washington and Lee website:

"I never had finance or accounting, yet I help run a huge business," the visiting Woodrow Wilson Fellow said. "I learned communications, research and critical thinking" in liberal arts and religious studies at Hamilton College and Yale, respectively. At Coke, "I blew right by the [business majors]."
Tuggle's words offer encouragement to a generation of liberal arts college students who might not know in which industry they want to work, after being advised since high school to adopt a laser focus on a career interest.

"Is Blogging Scholarship?" The Video is Here!

Here is the video of the "Is Blogging Scholarship?" session at the 2014 OAH conference in Atlanta:

Tomorrow Afternoon at LancasterHistory.Org

On Thursday afternoon I will giving a lecture entitled "Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?" at the LancasterHistory.Org (formerly the Lancaster County Historical Society) in Lancaster, PA.  I hope to see some of you there.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014 @ 04:00PM - 05:30PM

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction

Speaker: John Fea, Ph.D., Chair, Department of History, Messiah College, Mechanicsburg, PA
oakicon 65Was America founded as a Christian nation? This question has become a fixture in our so-called "culture wars." But just what did the Founding Fathers believe about the relationship between religion and the American republic? This lecture offers an even-handed primer on whether America was founded to be a Christian nation, as many conservative Christians assert, or a secular state, as others contend. The goal is to approach the issue from a historical perspective, helping attendees see past the emotional rhetoric of today to the recorded facts of our past.
  • Colloquia are held at's campus, 230 N President Avenue.
  • Social gathering 4 pm
  • Presentation from 4:30 to 5:30
  • All colloquia are free and open to the public.

E Street Band Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Acceptance Speeches

In case you have not heard, the E Street Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here are acceptance speeches from "Little Stevie" Van Zandt, "Mighty" Max Weinberg, "The Professor" Roy Bittan, Garry "W" Tallent, Patti Scialfa, Victoria Clemons, Nils Lofgren, Jason Federci, Vince Lopez, and David Sancious. Enjoy!

Blog Comment of the Day

It looks like our OAH session "Is Blogging Scholarship" is getting more post-conference attention than most of other sessions that took place in Atlanta this past weekend.  Not bad for a Sunday morning panel.

This comment, written by "ebharlowe," was posted in the comments section of the Junto in response to Ken Owen's post on blogging.

"I’m wondering if Messiah College’s Admissions office is keeping track of applicants who consider coming to Messiah because of John Fea’s blog?"

Here is the entire comment:

As a faculty member who has been through the tenure process multiple times and who has sat on personnel committees a private liberal arts colleges and regional state universities, I have a different view of the tenure thing…

Let me say that there are, and should be, different standards for tenure at R1′s than for Liberal Arts and regional universities. The publishing bar is far lower at *most* non-R1′s and the committee is more likely to value the Ernest Boyer types of scholarship more.

This is not to say that you can get tenure without *any* refereed publications or university press books (though I’ve seen it happen). My experience is that a blog that focusses on disciplinary issues, like “the Junto”, would be well-received by tenure committees as an aspect of scholarship. Blogging is not a substitute for traditional scholarship, but at universities where continuous faculty engagement is valued over production, it will count. Bottom line to tenure aspirants….local conditions may vary.

The other two pillars of tenure are teaching and service. Blogs like “Historiann”, “Tenured Radical” and “The Way of Improvement Leads Home” are invaluable as commentary on the profession. Through their blogs each of these authors have become public mentors to young scholars. Blog posts generate on-line discussion of important professional issues. They also generate discussions at the academy’s equivalent of the water cooler, the Xerox machine.

Bloggers also offer ways to explore and discuss new pedagogies. “The Junto” has published on using particular assignments or sources in teaching, for example. Blogging demonstrates a commitment to improving one’s teaching and is more useful in thinking about teaching than a dozen teaching development workshops.

Another aspect of service is getting your university’s name out to a wider audience. Blogs generate publicity for the department in ways that the publicity brochure and website cannot. I’m wondering if Messiah College’s Admissions office is keeping track of applicants who consider coming to Messiah because of John Fea’s blog? Are more students considering graduate work at Colorado State after reading Ann Little or Jonathan Rees? University PR folk love publicity. Shouldn’t bloggers get credit for this in their tenure/promotion file?

As with scholarship, maintaining a blog does not replace service on your department’s outcomes assessment committee or exonerate your poor teaching record but it *is* service to the department/profession and should be counted as such.

Still More on "Is Blogging Scholarship?"

Ken Owen of "The Junto" fame has now weighed in on our Organization of American Historian's panel "Is Blogging Scholarship."  Here is a taste:

The five bloggers on the panel all blog in different ways. John Fea pointed out that his model was that of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily DishHistoriann’s type of personal commentary is different and more regular than Mike O’Malley’s The AporeticUSIH and The Junto, both group blogs, take different approaches to generating content, with USIH assigning their bloggers more specific assignments.

When categorizing content, we should note that blogging is not one thing. Fea’s style engages a different audience from The Junto’s fare, yet both clearly fit under the broadest category of ‘historical blogging’. The real innovation of blogging lies in the ease with which people can access the means of publishing, and the hope of generating an audience.

That is necessarily disruptive of a process of recognizing “scholarship” through very narrow channels indeed. And really, the amount of scholarly activity we all do as historians that doesn’t fit neatly into a dissertation/article/review/monograph model should be accounted for in a review process.

Linda Kerber on Why Students Should Memorize the 14th Amendment

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kathryn Lofton on Secularization

L. Ron Hubbard
This post comes from our OAH conference correspondent Charles McCrary.  Charlie is a Ph.D candidate in religious studies at Florida State University.  His areas of research includes nineteenth-century cultural and intellectual history, religions of the Pacific, early American Methodism, and the historiography of American religions.  In this piece he responds to Kathryn Lofton's talk at the State of the Field: Religion in American History session.  Enjoy!  --JF

On Sunday morning at the OAH meeting I attended the State of the Field session for the study of religion and American history. John Fea storified his tweets on this session, providing a good summary of the session. So, instead I will focus on Kathryn Lofton’s presentation on secularism and secularization (this was her topic, alongside “religion and politics,” “religion and gender,” “religion and law,” and “religious diversity and complexity;” these categorizations themselves might have sparked some interesting conversation.) The study of secularism, as well as the use of it as a conceptual framework, is becoming popular in American religious history, especially as historians begin to draw on the work of scholars such as Webb Keane, Talal Asad, and Charles Taylor. Secularism has proved to be a useful frame for scholars of American religion, as evidenced by the work of Tracy Fessenden, John Modern, Gregory Jackson, and others. Lofton prudently cautioned, though, that as more historians become interested in secularism, we ought to be clear about what we mean and how we’re using it. In that spirit, in this post I will attempt to reiterate Lofton’s talk in order to provide a short primer to the place of secularism in American history now

As Lofton noted, secularization and secularism are not new concepts. Max Weber and Sigmund Freud both used them, as did Peter Berger, especially in his 1967 book The Sacred Canopy. Secularization, traditionally understood, is the idea that “religion” is going away or retreating from the public sphere somehow and that Western societies are becoming (and will become) less and less religious. Sociologists have debated this, and much of this depends on polls and categories and so on (Who are the “nones”? Are they a real group?). What Weber, Freud, and Berger were all getting at, though, Lofton argued, is religion as a marker of identity. What are the historical circumstances that created a world where some things, ideas, and people are “religious” and some are “secular”? Secularism, then, is the frame that allows for this taxonomy. It is about, to quote Taylor, the “conditions of belief.” This reminds me of a comment made during the State of the Field session on the American Enlightenment, wherein someone remarked that the Enlightenment was more about epistemology than specific ideas—how we believe more so than what we believe. This is the conversation that historians of American religion and secularism have taken up in the last decade or so.

In this way, Lofton’s talk framed the rest of the panel, as the study of secularism calls into question our categories, how we arrived at them, and why they matter. Why was there a talk on “religious diversity,” but not “religious violence,” for instance? What does that say about the state of the field? Other presenters asked narrower versions of that question, applied to their (sub?)-subfield. Why, Sarah Barringer Gordon asked, do scholars of religion and law study the First Amendment so much but do not often consider tax law or incorporation? What languages or logics mediate among the various actors in our stories? (Lofton argued, with a nod to Mark Valeri and Bethany Moreton, that the only majority transnational category today is finance.) The religion/secularism binary demands answers to the biggest questions about our field as whole. What is it, exactly, that we study? Or, following J.Z. Smith, why this and not that?

Consider Jonathan Edwards and L. Ron Hubbard. Lofton noted that to most of us, Edwards probably seems more theological and Hubbard more, well, “scientological.” But could Edwards not be considered, according to the science of his day, a scientist? Hubbard fought to have his church be legally recognized as a religion. These actors, like all actors, were subjects profoundly constrained and
Jonathan Edwards
conditioned by their own contexts. The study of secularism is largely about emphasizing these contexts or structures, leaving agency an open question. A different strand of history ignores or at least tables these concerns, although they do so, Lofton would say, unadvisedly. Either way, though, if we apply our own definitions of “religion” and “science” to Edwards or Hubbard, we risk obscuring rather than explaining or illuminating the worlds that made and were made by our subjects.

In the Q & A, as well as in other conversations during and after the session, some suggested that Lofton’s talk was not really about history but about something else, “social science” or “theory” instead. I don’t really understand this critique. It seems to me (and I think this is one argument Lofton made, though not quite in these words, in response to David Hollinger’s questions from the audience) that using our subjects’ epistemologies to frame categories is a thoroughly historical approach. If we’re going to plot Jonathan Edwards as an actor in religious history, then we ought to ask what religion meant in, say, 1740s Massachusetts. Secularism is a useful analytic for this type of historical framing.

Bratt on Hart on Calvinism

James Bratt, a Calvinist who teaches American history at Calvin College reviews Darryl Hart's Calvinism: A History at The Christian Century.  Hart is a Calvinist who teaches American history at Hillsdale College.

Here is Bratt's opening:

Some classic works on the origins of modernity gave pride of place to Calvinism. Max Weber famously made it the fount of capitalist economics; Robert K. Merton, that of experimental science; Michael Walzer, of political radicalism. In his new history of Reformed churches, D. G. Hart will have none of it. Rather than shaping modern life, he argues, Calvinism developed in reaction to it—sometimes in the negative sense of the word.

And here are some of his conclusions:

...readers should be aware of the particular interpretations structuring the book’s argument. Hart’sCalvinism is a very old-fashioned work, so old-fashioned as to be newly revealing. In contrast to the contextual analyses of religion that have dominated the professional guild for at least 40 years, Hart stays very much within the official institutions of Reformed Christianity, calling our attention to dy­na­mics and developments that the looser contextual ap­proach can overlook. The cost of this strategy is to ignore the broader connections and interactions that Calvinists made outside of formal church assemblies—in their workweek activities and in their participation in and impact on politics and education.

Read the rest here.

History Conference T-Shirts

Adam Rothman suggested the creation of these shirts and Mike O'Malley posted them.  Perfect gifts for the history conference-goer in your life.  See them all here.

Thomas Kidd on Arthur Sherr's Thomas Jefferson

Add caption
Recently Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture published an article by Arthur Sherr entitled “Thomas Jefferson Versus the Historians: Christianity, Atheistic Morality, and the Afterlife.” The blog editors asked several historians to comment on the article.  John Ragosta commented here and the latest response comes from Baylor's Thomas Kidd.  Here is a taste:
Barton’s The Jefferson Lies strained credulity by its selective use of evidence, leading Thomas Nelson publishers to pull the book from circulation in 2012. Scherr’s article respects standard historical practices in its use of evidence, and his analysis highlights many important aspects of Jefferson’s faith (or lack thereof). But as with other polemical views on Jefferson’s beliefs, Scherr’s thesis – that Jefferson considered himself no kind of Christian, not even a radically liberal one – outruns the nuances of the evidence.
And here:
Scherr’s article pits Jefferson against the “historians,” and it is quite an impressive roster of “scholarly adherents” whom Scherr regards as standing implicitly with the Religious Right in its co-opting of Jefferson. Thomas Buckley, Andrew Burstein, Peter Onuf, the late Edwin Gaustad, and others all seem to be part of those serving the interests of the Christian Right by “fecklessly attempt[ing] to depict [Jefferson] as a man of devout Christian faith.”
The worst offender, for Scherr, is Daniel Dreisbach. But I see little evidence in Scherr’s article that any of these historians, including Dreisbach, have tried to paint Jefferson (a la Barton) as a person of orthodox, Trinitarian faith. Instead, they have tried to account for Jefferson’s occasional comfort with government entanglement with religion, his fascination with the historical (though non-divine) Jesus of Nazareth, and his political alliance with many evangelicals, especially Baptists.
I covered many conservative and Christian historians’ rejection of Barton for the evangelical periodical WORLD Magazine in 2012. For one of those articles, I interviewed Dreisbach, who told me that he had a “‘very hard time’ accepting the notion,” advanced by Barton, “that Jefferson was ever an orthodox Christian, or that Jefferson ever embraced Christianity’s ‘transcendent claims.’” According to Scherr, Dreisbach is “closer to Barton than Barton’s opponents.” But in fact, across the ideological and faith spectrum Barton found virtually no scholarly supporters for The Jefferson Lies.

More on "Is Blogging Scholarship?"

As my readers know, on Sunday I participated in a session at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians entitled "Is Blogging Scholarship."  I blogged about the session here. You can also read Michael Hattem's collection of tweets posted by those in attendance.

Today some of the bloggers from the session and those who followed the session via social media are writing about it.  Here is what I have been able to find so far:

Ben Alpers summarizes his panel comments at U.S. Intellectual History.

Ann Little has posted her comments here.

Chris Gehrz was not in Atlanta, but he was following the Twitter feed and this blog.  See his comments at The Pietist Schoolman.

Paul Harvey discusses the session at Religion in American History

I like what Joseph Adelman has to say here.  (And thanks for the plug).  A taste:

Other blogs don’t aim for “scholarship” in the narrowest sense (John Fea had interesting thoughts on how to construe the term) but do wonderful service to the profession by highlighting books of interest, topics that deserve coverage, and connecting history to the present. And some blogs do a little bit of everything. John Fea is my best example of this. In a single day, he will post interviews with authors and book reviews, highlights of research projects, notes about teaching, and Springsteen concert clips. Go ahead over and read The Way of Improvement Leads Home and then tell me how you’d classify it. I can’t—and I like it that way.

Michael O'Malley discussed the session and summarized his remarks at his excellent blog, The Aporetic.

And in case you were not in Atlanta, the OAH filmed the session.  I imagine it will be appearing soon somewhere on the OAH website.

Look What I Found in My Mailbox Today!

I went to my Messiah College mailbox today and found a package from my old graduate school friend Thomas Beal.  Tom teaches history at SUNY-Oneonta and edits New York History journal. Inside the package was a copy of the original hard-bound volume of the 1943 Hunter Dickinson Farish edition of the Virginia diary of Philip Vickers Fithian. Believe it or not, I have never seen a copy of this book with the dust jacket. Tom said he "rescued it" from a used book store.  What a gift!  Thanks, Tom.

If you want to learn more about Philip Vickers Fithian I would encourage you to read the diary as well as this book.  I have heard that both are pretty good.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Alan Taylor Wins Another Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes have been announced.  Alan Taylor of the University of Virginia has won the Pulitzer in History for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.   This is Taylor's second Pulitzer.  He won in 1996 for William Cooper's Town.

Finalists were Jacqueline Jones and Eric Schlosser.

See all the 2014 winners here.

Virtual Office Hours: How to be a Public Scholar - Episode 6

"Writing Books for Public Audiences"

The Author's Corner with Nancy Koester

Nancy Koester holds a Ph.D. in Church History from Luther Seminary and currently lives in St. Paul, MN. This interview is based on her new book, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life (Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, January 2014).

JF: What led you to write Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life? 

NK: I’ve always been fascinated by the anti-slavery movement, especially the contributions of women. In a conversation with an editor, I learned that Eerdmans Publishing Co. wanted a volume on Harriet Beecher Stowe for their “Library of Religious Biography.” They wanted a book that would work more deeply with Stowe's religious faith than some of the existing biographies. I followed up with a will!

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life?

NK: Stowe’s fight against slavery and her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, expressed the moral vision of New England Calvinism: a society reflecting the love of God. But after she was a famous author, the death of her unconverted son made her question her inherited Calvinism, leading her on a quest through spiritualism to the Communion of Saints.

JF: Why do we need to read Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life? 

NK: Uncle Tom’s Cabin changed history by turning public opinion against slavery. To know Stowe's life story is to enter into defining conflict of our country, and also to explore some fascinating byways of 19th century life. Readers have told me that as the story unfolds, Harriet becomes real to them, and seems to remain with them long after they close the book.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

NK: When I was growing up, my parents took me to historic sites, and gave me books to read about American history. History has always seemed alive to me, and (paraphrasing Lincoln) I am almostready to say that this is probably true: time travel is possible if you have a disciplined imagination.

JF: What is your next project?

NK: Right now I am revising and expanding my Fortress Introduction to the History of Christianity in the U.S. After that, I hope to write a biography of Sojourner Truth. I love writing biographies, because it is rewarding to get to know someone from the past as deeply as you can.

JF: Thanks, Nancy

Thanks to Megan Piette for organizing and facilitating The Author's Corner. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Rosemarie Zagarri on Edmund Morgan

Raw sewage killed William Henry Harrison

Barbara Ehrenreich heard the voice of God

Opening Day 2014

Remember the Ladies

Women's historians and the National Women's History Museum and here.

The latest from John Demos

The "great year" theory of history

Jonathan Den Hartog reviews Michael Lee, The Erosion of Biblical Certainty: Battles Over Authority and Interpretation in America

J.L. Bell reviews AMC's Turn

Swimming pools and movie stars for Historiann.  Congrats!

A history lesson for Jim DeMint

Jonathan Rees is in Atlanta taking pictures of old refrigerator ads

Julianna Hammer reviews Denise Spellberg's Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders

Hearing American religious revivals

Marketing the intellectual

A Few Thoughts on OAH Panel "Is Blogging Scholarship?"

I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on a panel with Jeff Pasley, Anne Little, Michael O'Malley, Ben Alpers, and Ken Owen this morning to talk about historians and blogging.  You can read Michael Hattem's storification of the tweets from the session here.

Ann Little of Historiann fame got us off to a solid start.  Since she posted her comments before the session, a a few members of the panel (myself included) used part of their brief remarks to respond to Ann.  Is blogging scholarship?  Ann answered the question in the negative.  She could not get around the idea that the things we write on blogs cannot be subjected to peer review and thus could not formally be called scholarship.  Everything else she said about blogging was extremely positive.  She encouraged scholars to try to make a case for blogging as scholarship (although she warned pre-tenured faculty from doing so) and extolled the value of blogging for professional development and the development of writing habits. In the end, Historiann was a realist.  She was just not convinced that departments will accept blogging as scholarship when it comes to tenure and promotion.  She is largely correct.

I was up next.  I began with Ernest Boyer's 1990 essay Scholarship Reconsidered.  Boyer seeks to expand the idea of scholarship to include the scholarship of discovery (traditional research in books and articles), the scholarship of integration (synthetic work), the scholarship of application (bringing historical thinking skills and knowledge to the public), and the scholarship of teaching.  I argued that all four of these types of scholarship can be accomplished on a blog, but especially the scholarship of integration, application, and teaching.  I said that schools like Messiah College and others that have adopted Boyer's categories might consider blogging as "scholarship."

Michael O'Malley said that blogging is a form of scholarship, or at least is should be.  Blogging has the potential to be a venue that integrates the glowing personal reflections of a book's "acknowledgements" page(s) with the detached scholarly analysis found in the rest of the book.  Scholars are in the business of "making meaning" and blogging is a way for historians to share their personal struggles to make meaning out of the past.

Ben Alpers has done a lot of thinking about blogging.  He challenged the panel and the audience to separate "scholarship" from considerations related to promotion and tenure.  Scholarship does not have to be connected to peer review or the demands placed upon academics at their home institutions. He offered several advantages to blogging: speed, dissemination, inter-activity, flexibility, and hypertextuality.  Blogging also has its disadvantages: speed is not always good when doing historical research, blogging demands constant content, blogging is informal (it does not feel "scholarly" and when it tries to be "scholarly" it does not feel like blogging), blog posts are short.  He also reminded us that blog posts are always "works in progress," but they are also published.

Finally, Ken Owen talked about his experience at The Junto and his attempts to get his work at the blog to count toward his tenure at a school that values the Ernest Boyer model of scholarship.  

During the Q&A session several non-academic historians pushed the panel to see blogging as a way of engaging the public outside of the academy.  Several panelists and audience members rejected the idea that there should be AHA guidelines about what constitutes good blogging.  In a discussion about how to convince history departments that blogging was a legitimate form of scholarship, Clare Potter, a.k.a. "Tenured Radical," said that bloggers need to convince their departments that "not everything on a computer is the same."  

Thanks to Rosemarie Zagarri for bringing this panel together and Jeff Pasley for chairing it.  There was so much more I could have said about blogging (it has been a part of my life for over five years now), but I encourage you to keep reading The Way of Improvement Leads Home to get a better sense of what we are doing here.

With that, I think my OAH 2014 blogging and tweeting has come to an end.  Thanks for following this weekend.  

Storify of OAH 2014 Panel: "State of the Field: Religion and American History"

Here are some of my tweets.  See them all at @johnfea1

Storify: Is Blogging Scholarship?

Thanks so much to Michael Hattem of Yale for Storifyng our OAH session "Is Blogging Scholarship?" I will work on a post on the session soon.  It was a great session and was well attended despite its late Sunday morning time slot.   The "Story" is below.

Live Blogging OAH Session: "The State of the Field: American Religious History"

Follow along at #oah2014 or @johnfea1

Chair: Jon Butler

Kathryn Loften (Yale)
Wallace Best (Princeton)
Susan Juster (Michigan)
Kevin Schultz (UIC)
Sarah Barringer Gordon (Penn)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Morning at the OAH

I hope you are still in Atlanta.  If you are, I want to invite you to the 10:45 session: "Is Blogging Scholarship?" Historiann has already tipped her hand.  I am holding my thoughts close to the vest. Not sure what O'Malley, Pasley, or Alpers will say.  I hope to see you there.

Chair:  Jeffrey Pasley (University of Missouri)

John Fea (Messiah College)
Ann Little (Colorado State University)
Michael O' Malley (George Mason University)
Benjamin Alpers (University of Oklahoma)

Should be fun.

I will be live-tweeting the 9:00am session on the state of religion in American history.  Stay tuned.

Riffing on a Few Tweets From the "Historians and Their Publics" Plenary Session

Salon D was packed out yesterday afternoon for the plenary session of the Organization of American Historians: "Historians and Their Publics."  OAH president Alan Kraut moderated a session that included  Spencer Crew, Sean Wilentz, Jill Lepore, and Shola Lynch.  Rather than write a report of the panel, I thought I would use a few of my tweets to frame some thoughts.  Here goes:

TWEET: "Live tweeting plenary session 'Historians and Their Publics.' Kristof op-ed framing the discussion so far."
As might be expected, Kristof's New York Times op-ed "Professors, We Need You" was on everyone's mind. Kraut used the piece to frame the conversation. I am on record saying that Kristof's piece is on the mark, but I would really like to know what Lepore thought about it. (She is mentioned in the piece as someone who is connecting with public audiences). At one point during the session she said that scholars have retreated into the ivory tower, suggesting that she might believe that Kristof has identified a problem.

TWEET: "Lepore sees her writing as extension of her teaching. Developing students in skills of historcial thinking."
Wilentz also affirmed this. I am not sure how often Lepore and Wilentz teach, but those scholars in the proverbial "trenches" who teach 4-4 loads (or more) are our most important public historians. K-12 teachers as well.

TWEET: "Lepore: So many historians think that to do public history is to somehow to engage in politics. More to this than just punditry"
This led to an interesting conversation. Lepore tried to separate what she does in The New Yorker and elsewhere from political punditry (although a lot of her public writing has an obvious political edge). Wilentz saw no need to do so. As someone who writes the occasional op-ed or politically-charged blog post, I often struggle with this issue. Do I have to take off my "historian" hat and put on my "pundit" hat whenever I write an op-ed piece? Wilentz admitted that there was a fundamental difference between writing scholarly essays/books and writing opinion pieces, but he did not think the difference was very great. He argued for what might be called a "historically informed punditry." (This is not unlike what the History News Service has been trying to do).

TWEET: "Wilentz describes old magazines like the New Republic as "gladiatorial." Extolls these kinds of mags as way to reach the public."
Wilentz likes to write for the magazines read by America's educated class. So does Lepore. She extolled the essay as the best way to reach public audiences. While both of these excellent public scholars reach a much larger audience than most historians (and should be commended for doing so), their understanding of "the public" is very narrow. It struck me that no one in the room acknowledged the assumptions about social class (and I am talking here about "class" as more of a cultural phenomenon than an economic one) that pervaded much of what Lepore and Wilentz had to say. For example, most Americans do not read The New Republic or The New Yorker. The overwhelming majority of the American public might ask "Who is Jill Lepore?" or "Who is Sean Wilentz?" How does one reach people like my Dad--a man without a post-secondary education who gets most of his history from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh? What about the millions of evangelical Christians who get their history from David Barton? Reaching these Americans requires a very different approach to what it means to be a "public intellectual." Spencer Crew (museum educator) and Shola Lynch (documentary film maker) seemed to have a much more expansive view of "the public."

TWEET: "Lepore talks about her tea party book. Says she felt a 'chill' from the historical profession. She was told it was a waste of time."
I really liked The Whites of Their Eyes and gave it a lot of attention here at the blog.  I think it is unfortunate that so many historians blasted the book.  It was a great attempt to address the way history is being used (and abused) in the public.  Did Lepore waste her time writing about the Tea Party's use and abuse of history?  Absolutely not.  The criticism she received by some members of the historical profession reveal an unwillingness to engage with cultural or political movements that are perceived to be anti-intellectual or not worthy of their time.  This is unfortunate.

My critique of The Whites of Their Eyes is different than the criticism offered by others in the historical profession.  Lepore's book is a good start, but it did very little to help the Tea Party develop a more nuanced interpretation of American history.  I am not sure that many rank and file Tea Partiers read the book (but I could be wrong).  Few of them would listen to a Harvard history professor anyway.  So who did read The Whites of Their Eyes?  I am guessing that the readers of the book were people who already agree with Lepore about the Tea Party's misuse of history.  It is likely that these readers might use the book for further ammunition in attacking the anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party. 

In other words, Lepore was using her Princeton University Press book to preach to the choir.  Did it really change hearts and minds?  If not, what might it take to do so?  These are the questions we should be asking. Rather than using our "superior" intellectual to savage those who may not see the power of a well-crafted historical argument, we should be thinking about the most effective ways of teaching those outside of our classrooms how to make such an argument.  In the process we might succeed in winning some of them over.