Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?" Lands 11th Seed in Junto March Madness Tournament

For the second year in a row, the young early American historians at The Junto are hosting a March Madness tournament.  This year they have selected a field of 64 early American history books published after 2000.  (Last year the tournament was open to any book on early American history and the winner was Edmund Morgan's American Slavery--American Freedom).

Some of you may recall my post last week in which I made an argument as to why The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment and Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction should be in the field of 64.  I apparently convinced some readers.  Both books were nominated for the tournament.  Thanks to all who nominated and "seconded" my books.

In the end, Philip Vickers Fithian was snubbed by the committee (some rule about one book per author), but Was America Founded made it into the tournament as an 11-seed. Frankly, I was expecting a lower seed (14 or 15 perhaps), so I was definitely happy to see that we landed on the 11 line in the Transnational/Religion Bracket (Bracket One).  The other 11-seeds in the tournament are Kathleen Duval's Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent; Christopher Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism; and Benjamin Irvin, Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors.

We have a very tough first round match-up against Rebecca Goetz's excellent The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race, a sixth seed.  We are definitely underdogs here:

  • NYU (where Goetz teaches) versus Messiah College (where I happily teach).  
  • Johns Hopkins University Press vs. tiny Westminster/John Knox Press. 
  • Harvard Ph.D vs. SUNY-Stony Brook Ph.D  
  • A scholarly monograph versus a book for popular audiences (the pool definitely favors monographs over popular works)

But Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? has been here before and we are up to the challenge.  I think we can pull the upset!

We are going to take one game a time in this year's Junto March Madness (#jmm14 on twitter), but I can't help but look ahead to the second round.  If we pull the upset over The Baptism of Early Virginia we may have to take on Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalist in the Revolutionary World .  Some of you may recall that Was America Founded as a Christian Nation was one of the three finalists for the George Washington Book Prize in 2012 and we lost the 50K to Jasanoff!!  :-)  I don't want to have to face her again, but I have had some time to watch more film on her book and think I might be able to devise an offensive and defensive scheme that might allow us to hang with her for four quarters. (BTW, Irvin, the 11th seed in the Political Bracket, was the other finalist for the GW Prize)

GW Book Prize Finalists--2012
It is going to be extremely hard to advance out of a bracket that includes recent books by Marcus Rediker, Catherine Brekus, Kate Engel, Dan Richter, Brendan McConnville, Katherine Brown, Evan Haefeli, and Alan Taylor.

If we want any chance of advancing we are going to have to play to Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?'s appeal to popular audiences.  So let's get out the vote.

On Monday, March 17,  head over to The Junto and vote for Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?