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January 18, 2006 Contact: James David Moran
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American history is free and on the web

WORCESTER, MA—The fall 2007 issue of Common-place, the online history journal, announces that free, web-based primary sources on early America will soon be available to readers, thanks to the efforts of historian Allan Kulikoff, who compiled a list of more than 1,300 sites containing tens of thousands of digitized primary sources.

Kulikoff, the Abraham Baldwin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at the University of Georgia, began compiling the list while teaching as a Fulbright lecturer at Nankai University, Tianjin, China. The list is the result of his intent to assist colleagues in China where there are few primary sources of early American history.

The list will be hosted by Common-place; and will be valuable to anyone interested in our early American past, from university professors writing books to high-school students searching for materials for term papers to Common-place readers who want to explore old or new historical interests.

It covers every discipline in American studies: history, literature, law, art, music, science, medicine, politics, religion, economics, anthropology, sociology, demography.

Among the articles in the Fall 2007 issue of Common-place is historian Philip Mead's account of walking the Freedom Trail with a group of U.S. military officers. The officers wanted to apply lessons from the British failure to arrest the rebel American leaders and restore order and loyalty in Boston to their own counter insurgency operations in Iraq.

At the Boston Massacre site, Mead discussed the problem of popular support for resistance to the presence of an army and the question of when and how a military presence becomes counterproductive.

His experience as the tour guide, he writes, challenged his views of the war in Iraq and the American Revolution, as well as the responsibilities of a historian in a time of war.

In his article, "What is a Loyalist?" Edward Larkin considers one of the "most poorly understood aspects of the Revolution."

Americans who favored reconciliation with Great Britain, he writes, have been "generally dismissed as self-interested, cowardly, antidemocratic, elitist collaborators…"

Most Loyalists, Larkin argues, "were proud to be American colonials and identified strongly with their local communities and governments."

He concludes that recognizing loyalism as a legitimate response to the late eighteenth-century colonial controversies in British North America, "requires us not only to recast the Revolutionary conflict as a civil war but also to revise our understanding of the dynamics of consent, coercion, resistance, nation formation, and peoplehood during the Revolution."

David S. Shields recounts a quest for superlative American ham in his article, "The Search for the Cure."

No food in colonial Anglo-America declared gustatory adequacy at the world table more forcefully than ham, Shields writes. Travelers to the English territories declared American pork superior in flavor to any in the world.

Shields' article describes two schools of ham production, "the dry-cure sect, who would increasingly view themselves as purists and traditionalists, and the wet curists, who regarded themselves as experimentalists in taste, economy, and scientific agriculture, yet whose pork brined in a barrel was the staple of the common household."

Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's article considers "How Betsy Ross Became Famous."

With virtually no written documentation, the story of Betsy Ross making the first American flag pits the power of oral transmission against a scholarly fixation on written sources, according to Ulrich. More importantly, she notes, Betsy Ross's story embodies nineteenth-century ideas about the place of women.

Ulrich writes that Betsy Ross' story "was patriotic yet safe from the rough and tumble of politics. In the hands of her preservers, she challenged George Washington's design for the flag, but she did not challenge a gender division of labor that put needles in the hands of little girls and guns on the shoulders of their brothers."

Writing in Common Reading, Matthew P. Brown's article, "Undisciplined Reading," defends "a reading practice of depth, rather than superficiality."

Disorderly reading, according to Brown, "mimics the mind's generative activity of thought and discovery, those instances where you know something is happening but you don't know what it is. We might better call it discontinuous or nonlinear reading and acknowledge its long history, a history that reveals the fact that nonlinear reading lends itself to routinized procedure as well."

In Ask the Author, Common-place asks Megan Marshall, "Why biography?" Marshall is the author of The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005), which won the Francis Parkman Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in nonfiction, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography and memoir.

The book, which Marshall researched and wrote over 20 years, chronicles the lives of three women of obvious talent who had allied themselves, professionally or personally, with some of the greatest male "geniuses" of their time: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Horace Mann, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Peabody sisters took markedly different positions on abolition, women's rights, and Transcendentalism.

"Most people read biographies to learn, to feel they are taking in history as it was being made," Marshall replied. Readers of The Peabody Sisters, she said, "have some sense of what it felt like to be caught up in the spiritual quest that absorbed the Peabody sisters and their circle during the era of Transcendentalism's emergence."

In Tales from the Vault, Steve Beare recounts his discovery of a stamp pattern book made by Samuel Dodd, a nineteenth-century New Jersey engraver. The circuitous path of research that followed resulted in a rare glimpse into a small nineteenth-century American business, revealing just how many designs one man produced in his lifetime.

In The Common School, Tim Roberts tells how teaching the early history of the United States by analogy offered Turkish students lessons about the early history of their own country.

Both countries' struggles with issues of national identity and citizenship, minority rights, and women's rights, enabled Turkish students to better appreciate early U.S. history.

"The challenge of getting foreign students to see the early United States as more than a fuzzy abstraction has prompted me to teach important episodes in U.S. history through cross-national and cross-cultural analogies," Roberts notes.

In Object Lessons, Barbara Brooks traces the history of an American flag and its symbolism in the first official U.S. presence in Japan. The flag, made of Japanese silk, was carried in the procession of the first American consul general to an historic audience with the shogun in Edo.

The current issue of Common-place also contains the following book reviews: Martha Hodes' The Sea Captain's Wife, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar; William M. Kelso's Jamestown: The Buried Truth by Peter C. Mancall; Peter C. Mancall's Hakluyt's Promise by Carla Gardina Pestana; Chris Beneke's Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism by John Howard Smith; Mary Kelley's Learning to Stand and Speak by Lynda Yankaskas and Wendy Gamber's The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth Century America by Michael Zakim.

About Common-place

Common-place is a common place for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. A bit friendlier than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Common-place speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. Common-place readers can join in the discussion of any of the journal’s features by visiting the "Common-place Coffeeshop," a message board on the website. Common-place is sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society and the Florida State University Department of History.

About the American Antiquarian Society

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is a learned society and independent research library, specializing in all aspects of American history and culture through 1876. Founded in 1812 by the patriot printer and publisher Isaiah Thomas, AAS is the third oldest historical organization in the United States and the first to take the whole nation as its scope. The AAS library is the preeminent repository of pre-twentieth-century American printed materials and related manuscript and graphic arts materials in the world.

The Society also sponsors an array of programs to encourage the use of its collections and to foster a greater understanding of American history. The main office for Common-place is at AAS, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609-1634; telephone (508) 755-5221.

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