Blogs > Cliopatria > Another Monday Reading Bleg

Oct 9, 2006 4:19 pm


Another Monday Reading Bleg



I’m working on syllabi for next semester this week. I’ve finished my undergraduate class syllabus; Ralph gave it a nod below and you can read it here if you like.

My graduate reading seminar in early American history is now costing me some serious effort. This used to be an easy course to teach and organize: early America meant the history of British settlement in the thirteen original colonies from 1607-1789. Easily defined temporal and geographical bounds are now a thing of the past, though. With the rise of prehistory and ethnohistory, no graduate readings seminar begins in 1607, for we recognize the importance of understanding indigenous North America prior to and during the early encounters with Europeans. Borderlands history has substantially increased the early Americanist’s awareness of the early Southeast, the Great Lakes region, and the trans-Mississippi west. And the growth of Atlantic history brings the Spanish and French North American settlements into sharper focus, and it has also brought the Caribbean and West Africa into the early Americanist’s orbit.

My graduate reading seminar has to make students aware of these vast historiographical changes and teach them how to navigate early American history. I’m calling the course Readings in North American History, 1500-1800. I plan to keep the focus on British North America, but every week I’ll assign reading that addresses Spanish or French North America and the early modern Atlantic world. I’ve got fifteen weeks to do this, and as my reading list gets longer (and probably less doable as well!) I’m very much aware of how much ground needs to be covered and how little time I have to introduce students to main themes, topics, and problems in early American history.

As a follow-up to Rob’s bleg last week, I’m interested in what Cliopatria’s readers would assign and discuss in a similar class. List your top five early American history books in the comments. On Friday I’ll make a composite post of readers’ favorite works in North American history, 1500-1800. Sometime next week when I’m done with the syllabus, I’ll post it online so interested folks can see which of their favorites made the reading list, and which ones did not!

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Evan Garcia - 10/18/2006

The opening chapter of Richter's Facing East gives an excellent introduction to how contact history can be written. I am by no means a specialist in the period, but I found that when I taught that chapter in undergraduate discussion sections, students seemed to get it easily, something that can't be said about other efforts in getting them to think about how history is written.


David Lion Salmanson - 10/13/2006

I think Cronon has to be in. It is too methodoogically interesting a book and the central question is too relevant. I still think it accomplishes two things, it introduces students to an interesting methodology that points out ways of using all kinds of sources in new ways (or ways likely to be new to new grad students) and tells a compelling narrative. Even if students dealt with the second part in the college class they were still handling the "stuff" rather than thinking about how Cronon assembled the narrative and chances are they didn't even look at the footnotes as undergrads.


David Lion Salmanson - 10/13/2006

I can't imagine teaching the Weber to a whole class; it's more of a reference work type thing and isn't mehtodologically interesting. Perhaps if people had to present a historiography piece on a particular topic, it could be part of a paper with Bolton and Bannon.


Rebecca Anne Goetz - 10/12/2006

I'm interested to see what I do with it too... I've just been reading in Richter's first book, The Ordeal of the Longhouse (UNC, 1992). I haven't read Facing East from Indian country, but friends of mine who specialize in Native North America tell me there are a number of clums factual errors. That doesn't lessen the impact of history from the native perspective, though. But I digress. I'm actually working on the week I've labelled "Native North America" as we speak. I've just been deciding on Inga Clendinnen's Aztecs: An Interpretation. I think it's in...


Rebecca Anne Goetz - 10/12/2006

Yikes. The emerging canon...it's a difficult question and and even more difficult concept. More on that later.


Rebecca Anne Goetz - 10/12/2006

Cronon might not be in; I'm still deciding. But I am teaching The Middle Ground.

I agree about Gutierrez. It's just that so much of his interpretation has been discredited, that I hate to force it on grad students!


Bruce Neal Simon - 10/12/2006

Definitely agree those are already canonical, though I'd add Hulme's Colonial Encounters and . And suggest Theodore Allen's The Invention of the White Race and Linebaugh and Rediker's The Many-Headed Hydra as good supplements to AS/AF.

Wondering what the emergent canon now is. What do people think of:

David Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992)

Jack Forbes, Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1993)

Colin Calloway, New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997)

Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 (NY: Verso, 1997)

Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2000)

Christine Daniels and Michael Kennedy, eds., Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500-1820 (NY: Routledge, 2002)


Bruce Neal Simon - 10/12/2006

Very interested in seeing what you do. Now imagine trying to teach an Intro to American Studies course in Japan, where the best undergraduates can read maybe 30 pages per week and the worst less than 5, classes meet only for an hour and a half per week, and you've been asked to cover a broad sweep of American history! Yikes. Any advice?

On your book question, I'll approach it from the perspective of concise chapters/articles that are very teachable at any level. I find the editorial apparatus and organization of Jehlen and Warner's The English Literatures of America, 1500-1800 quite good--very concise yet comprehensive (haven't yet seen Mulford's newer anthology but want to!). Gary Hewitt has a great article in Teaching the Literatures of Early America illustrating the value of comparative approaches to post-Columbus American history. More recently, I've found Emory Elliott's first chapter of The Cambridge Introduction to Early American Literature pretty good on situating the Puritans in a broader European context and Karen Kupperman's essay in Rethinking American History in a Global Age (or whatever Bender's edited collection title actually is) quite useful for a summary of pre-Puritan/post-Columbus American (as in native) history.

Turning to books, the first chapter of Bender's A Nation among Nations may be the best summary of post-New Worlds for All scholarship and it points me toward Richter's Facing East from Indian Country (which sounds incredible). I read Mann's 1491 this summer but can't imagine teaching it (probably a failure of my imagination--it's a good book by a non-specialist on a vast sweep of what used to be thought of as pre-history). The last one on my must-read list is Peter Mancall and James Merrell's American Encounters: Natives and Newcomers from European Contact to Indian Removal, 1500-1850....


David Lion Salmanson - 10/11/2006

I think the argument for keeping Gutierrez is that it does a nice job showing how to do history of sexuality in both good and bad ways. He overreaches in places where you say to yourself, "how does he know that?" The Brooks is a better book, but I'm not sure you could learn as much from it as a graduate student. That's what makes Cronon and White so remarkable, they are great books and they teach well.


Rebecca Anne Goetz - 10/10/2006

I totally agree with replacing Gutierrez with Brooks...instead of Keepers of the Game, I might assign Virginia Anderson's Creatures of Empire...


David Lion Salmanson - 10/10/2006

Their are three obvious "new classics," Richard White's The Middle Ground and Ramon Gutierrez's When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away and William Cronon's Changes in the Land. I might replace Gutieerez with James Brooks, Captives and Cousins or keep them both. From the older canon, I am definitely keeping American Slavery American Freedom and Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. So that's five. I would not use Keepers of the Game and responses to it, although at one time I would have.


Manan Ahmed - 10/9/2006

The Man Who Would Be King: The First American In Afghanistan

I didn't finish it...but what I read, I really liked.

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