Blogs > Cliopatria > A Call for Symposium: Jamestown 2007

May 7, 2007 4:36 am

A Call for Symposium: Jamestown 2007

"The Queen has arrived in the US to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia - although many Americans will still tell you it was in Plymouth, Massachusetts - 13 years later."

The Queen - of England - does arrive in Virginia today. And on Friday, she will, indeed, tour the site where, 400 years ago, Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in America. Reading that news piece by Malcolm Billings inspired me to make the call for our next symposium.

The question, as Ralph Luker stated, is why has the American national narrative characteristically taken New England/Puritans rather than Jamestown/Virginia/Anglicans as its foundation touchstone?

That is the question to which we solicit your responses. Cliopatrians should send their contributions to manan*at*uchicago*dot*edu by midnight Sunday, May 6th, 2007. Contributions from all bloggers are genuinely welcomed at their own blogs. Please send me a link to your post and I will include it in the symposium post. Our desire, as always, is to have as broad a discussion as possible.

A short reading list, for your perusal:

* 1607: Just wunnerful!
* Queen Elizabeth II Visits U.S.
* Jamestown at 400: Caught Between a Rock and a Slippery Slope
* 400 Years After Jamestown: For African Americans, an Abundant Harvest From an Imperfect Democracy
* A New World: England's First View of America
* Jamestown, 400 Years After the First Settlers, Still Surprises
*Artifacts Rewrite Jamestown's History
* Inventing America
* Thousands to affirm America's Christian Roots
* Judging Jamestown at 400

Our past Symposia.
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More Comments:

Paul Noonan - 5/6/2007

At Plymouth you have a family-based society of hard working humble folks who seek freedom to worship God in a way their sociey doesn't tolerate. They persevere in the face of great hardships.

At Jamestown there are also great hardships, but there you also have an initially non-family based society (the original settlers were all men and for well over a decade the colony was a mostly male frontier society). Their religious sentiments were conventional; their motivations in coming to the New World had to do with economic opportunity (initially a delusional search for precious metals; later the growth of tobacco, an agricultural product with no nutritive value and - as we much later found out - actually deleterious to health). The early settlers were mostly "gentlemen" who at one point had to be threatened with having their rations witheld in order to get them to do a decent day's work.

I submit that both the Jamestown and the Plymouth experiences can tell you a lot about the emerging American character, but which one do you think elementary school teachers and politicians making patriotic speechs are going to dwell on? After all, no one apparantly ever had to tell Miles Standish to do a decent day's work or he wouldn't get any dinner.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/5/2007

this to the reading list. I'm not an early Americanist, so I can't evaluate most of his claims, but the indictment of history both professional, public and popular is pretty severe.

Actually, the chart might be fodder for a whole other symposium.

Ben W. Brumfield - 5/4/2007

...was Frank Owsley's explanation in "The Irrepressible Conflict" (I'll Take My Stand pp. 62-64):

Hence, for thirty years after the Civil war the intellectual life of the South was as sterile as its own rocky uplands and sandy barrens. The rising generations read Northern literature, shot through with the New England tradition. Northern textbooks were used in Southern schools; Northern histories, despite the frantic protests of local patriotic organizations, were almost universally taught in Southern high schools and colleges, — books that were built around the Northern legend and either completely ignored the South or insisted upon the unrighteousness of most of its history and its philosophy of life. One would judge from the average history text and from the recitations conducted by the Northern schoolma'am that the Puritans and Pilgrim fathers were the ancestors of every self-respecting American. Southern children spoke of "our Puritan fathers." No child ever heard of the Southern Puritan fathers — the great horde of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German Lutherans and other strict and puritanical peoples who had pushed to the Mississippi River and far North of the Ohio before the New England population had got a hundred miles west of Boston.

Seriously, this is a great choice of topic for a symposium, and I look forward to reading the responses.

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