Category Archives: Books

Bruce Dearstyne: Dave McCullough and the Uses of History


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The American SpiritPulitzer-prize winning author David McCullough has published a new book, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017).

It is a bit of a disappointment in some ways — there is no overarching essay on the American spirit, and the book itself is actually a collection of commencement talks and other speeches by the author over the years rather than new work.

But like all of McCullough’s works, the book is stimulating and worth reading for its perspectives and insights, its eloquent writing, and particularly for the way it makes the case for the values of history. Continue reading

How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution


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unshackling americaWillard Sterne Randall’s new book, Unshackling America: How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) challenges the notion that Americans fought two separate wars of independence.

Willard Sterne Randall documents a fifty-year-long struggle for economic independence from Britain overlapping two armed conflicts linked by an unacknowledged global struggle. Randall  argues that the struggle was all about free trade. Continue reading

Journal of Phebe Orvis Reveals Extraordinary Woman


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an extraordinary ordinary womanA new book by Susan M. Ouelette An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 (SUNY Press, 2017) takes a look at Phebe Orvis, a young woman adapting to life on the New York and Vermont frontier.

In 1820, Phebe Orvis began a journal that she faithfully kept for a decade. Her diary captures not only the everyday life of an ordinary woman in early nineteenth-century Vermont and New York, but also the unusual happenings of her family, neighborhood, and beyond. Continue reading

Material Culture and the Making of America


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ben_franklins_worldWhat do the objects we purchase and use say about us?

If we take the time to think about the material objects and clothing in our lives, we’ll find that we can actually learn a lot about ourselves and other people. The same holds true when we take the time to study the objects and clothing left behind by people from the past.

In this episode of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, Jennifer Van Horn, an Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware and author of The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), leads us on an exploration of the 18th-century British material world and how objects from that world can help us think about and explore the lives of 18th-century British Americans. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/136

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Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley


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Susan Stessin-Cohn and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini’s book In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley 1735-1831 (Black Dome, 2016) documents 607 fugitives from slavery in the 18th and 19th-century Hudson River Valley region of New York State through the reproduction and transcription of 512 archival newspaper notices for runaway slaves placed by their enslavers or agents.

Also included are notices advertising slaves captured, notices advertising slaves for sale, notices offering to purchase slaves, and selected runaway notices from outside the Hudson River Valley region. Nine tables analyze the data in the 512 notices for runaways from Hudson Valley enslavers, and the book includes a glossary, indexes of names, locations, and subjects, 36 illustrations, 5 maps from the 18th and 19th centuries, and a foreword by A.J. Williams-Myers, Black Studies Department, SUNY at New Paltz. Continue reading

New Book: Historic Landmarks of Old New York


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historic landmarks of old new yorkThe new book Historic Landmarks of Old New York (Museyon Guides, 2017) looks at Manhattan’s historic landmarks through photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott, Alfred Eisenstaedt and others; quotes by celebrities, from George Washington to Lenny Bruce; and informative anecdotes, including the last public execution in Washington Square, the ghost of Aaron Burr’s lost daughter, Alva Vanderbilt’s costume ball, The Beatles’ “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance and more. Continue reading

Adirondack Philosophers’ Camp Features Beowulf, Grendel By Canoe


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Philo camp campers on bridgeThe Philosophers’ Camp, an annual collaboration between SUNY-ESF’s Northern Forest Institute and St. John’s College Santa Fe, reimagines the original Adirondack excursion as a weekend retreat in elegant Great Camp style at the historic Masten House, will be held September 29 to October 1, 2017.

The 1858 expedition immortalized in William James Stillman’s painting provides historical grounding for this contemporary revision and an opportunity this year for conversations related to the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, John Gardner’s 1971 novel Grendel and The Old Testament book of Ruth. Continue reading

The Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy


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ben_franklins_worldIf early Americans desired slaves mostly to produce sugarcane, cotton, rice, indigo, and tobacco, what would happen if Europeans and early Americans stopped purchasing those products?

Would boycotting slave-produced goods and starving slavery of its economic sustenance be enough to end the practice of slavery in North America?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Julie Holcomb, an Associate Professor of Museum Studies at Baylor University and author of Moral Commerce: The Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy (Cornell University Press, 2016), helps us explore answers to these questions by leading us through the transatlantic boycott of slave produced goods. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/135

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Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America


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ben_franklins_worldIn Colonial America, clergymen stood as thought leaders in their local communities. They stood at the head of their congregations and many community members looked to them for knowledge and insight about the world around them.

So what happened to these trusted, educated men during the American Revolution? How did they choose their political allegiances? And what work did they undertake to aid or hinder the revolutionary cause?

In this episode of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, Spencer McBride, an editor at the Joseph Smith Papers documentary editing project, joins us to explore some of the ways politics and religion intersected during the American Revolution with details from his book, Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America (University of Virginia, 2017). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/134

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New Book: Upstate Uncovered


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upstate uncovered book coverChuck D’Imperio’s new book Upstate Uncovered: 100 Unique, Unusual, and Overlooked Destinations in Upstate New York (SUNY Press, 2017) shares an array of fun and amazing places in Upstate New York that the casual traveler might otherwise miss.

As one of Upstate’s most ardent advocates, D’Imperio has traveled the backroads and byways of the region seeking out the stories, tales, and folklore writ upon the landscape. He takes readers to one hundred small towns and cities from the Hudson Valley to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks and out through the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes region. Not only a reflection of “the road less traveled,” Upstate Uncovered includes pertinent information such as websites, photographs, personal interviews, and explicit directions to each of the included entries. Continue reading