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The sub-branch of history that is known by the ambiguous (and frightening to undergraduates, cats, and many mainstream academics) name “historiography” seems to be undergoing a Renaissance at the moment.
Thomas Jefferson has had a rough few years. Since DNA established beyond a reasonable doubt that he fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings, Jefferson has been pushed into the shadows and forced to watch as his political rivals John Adams and Alexander Hamilton enjoy the limelight.
Paradigm shifts in historiography seem to come all at once rather than being spaced evenly along the disciplinary trajectory. The last such shift in writing about slavery and race (including civil rights) in the United States came between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s.
Old historians, like old soldiers, don’t die; they simply fade away. A paradox of the historical profession is the widespread disregard shown towards ancestors. We all aspire to write groundbreaking work that will pass the test of time, but the sad truth is a given monograph will have a short shelf life and quickly join what G. M.
Passing under a tessellated ply-wood portcullis to enter ‘Revel Grove’ and attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival, held in the Baltimore suburb of Crownsville, crowds of eager 21st–century revelers are greeted by none other than a faux Henry VIII, six feet plus in height, twenty stone, fists at his hips, legs akimbo in colossus fashion, and dressed in as authentic Holbein garb as a theater co
Classical works formed the kernel of Thomas Jefferson's libraries. The third president read both Latin and Greek. He wrote repeatedly of his fondness of classical literature and died, on 4 July 1826, with Seneca's work open on his bedside table. Nonetheless, Jefferson in many ways doubted the classical world was the original mold upon which the American experiment had to be built.
One could perhaps argue that, so far as the popular academic imagination is concerned, America has never had much of a reputation so far as historical theory goes.
Gwenda Morgan's The Debate on the American Revolution adds a valuable volume to Manchester University Press's series on Issues in History. Stretching the American Revolution forward to the construction and ratification of the American federal constitution, she surveys and sifts through a vast literature that has grown exponentially over the last several decades.