Most canonical interpretations of the American Civil War revolve around some facet of the great national contest over the status and future of slavery in the western territories.
Until about 15 years ago the complex history of the links between the north of Ireland and colonial America was something of a brackish backwater in 18th-century Atlantic studies. Admittedly, the internal history of Ulster Presbyterianism had already come alive, thanks to the work of David Hayton on the early 18th century, and of David Miller and Ian McBride on the final decades.
Interpreting African-American history at historic sites is an essential but often complicated task. This timely and important volume seeks to improve and suggest successful plans for historical interpretation, and contains nearly two dozen essays spanning from the colonial period to the 21st century.
Across the 17th century, more than 350,000 English people went to America. Yet many, if not most of those who went brought with them a keen sense of their bringing ‘Englishness’ with them, rather than transforming into ‘Americans’. Emigrants travelled to the New World for a variety of reasons.
Imagine the surprise of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft when, on a humid July day in 1846, he picked up a copy of the Albany Argus, a New York state Democratic Party newspaper, only to learn that he had been murdered. The paper carried an obituary which reported that Schoolcraft had been shot in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan by a ‘half breed’ named John Tanner.
In 1775, Samuel Johnson had already identified the central paradox of United States history. He notoriously challenged British readers to explain why ‘we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes’. Generations of historians have tried to answer that question. How could a movement espousing belief in liberty include so many slaveholders?
David Brundage’s Irish Nationalists in America employs no sleight of hand in its title. It is a short, well-crafted new survey of Irish nationalists in the United States from the late 18th century to the close of the 20th that is more than the sum of its parts.
In his 2013 book, The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters, Anthony Pagden devoted a chapter to the European ‘discovery’ of ‘man in nature’, partly through their study of the individual men whom French and British explorers brought back from their voyages to the South Pacific.
For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.
Matthew Karp’s This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy seeks to explain the worldview of elite Southern slave-owners in the antebellum era.