Theodor de Bry, Plate XXII, ca. 1591
The next meeting of the History Journal Club will be held on Tuesday, November 17th at 2pm in DM370. For the November meeting, we will focus on understanding audience expectations for both primary and secondary sources. To help us springboard into that discussion, the November article is Daniel Vollaro, “Sixty Indians and Twenty Canoes: Briton Hammon’s Unreliable Witness to History.” Vollaro argued that historic and modern audience expectations for African-American writer Briton Hammon’s A Narrative of the Uncommon and Surprizing Deliverance impacted both Hammon’s portrayal of Florida Native Americans, and modern scholars’ interpretations about his descriptions of those Native Americans. Historians thus must consider carefully the expectations of past audiences, while also remembering that the expectations of their own audiences likely will impact their own interpretations.
Richard Ligon, The True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657)
At our second Journal Club meeting of the semester we had a great discussion about using secondary sources. We used Linford D. Fisher, “‘Dangerous Designes’: The 1676 Barbados Act to Prohibit New England Indian Slave Importation” as a springboard for a conversion about evaluating secondary sources. In particular, Fisher’s discovery of a previous lost Barbados Act outlining an import ban on enslaved Native Americans revealed how one piece of new evidence can overturn established historiography. Previous historians assumed from the Act’s title that it banned the importation of all Native American slaves. The full text of the Act, however, indicated it applied only to New England Native Americans.
The last thing we did at the meeting was determine our favorite U.S. Presidents. Interestingly, while some people went for “deep cuts,” even picking Coolidge, the most popular answer by far was none. I was surprised no one stumped for Jefferson. After all, the man wrote the Declaration of Independence. Presentation of such quantified data is made easy by using graphs. In this case, with multiple easy-to-compare data points, a bar graph is the best method to present the data.
THE ONLY THING MISSING FROM THE OCTOBER MEETING WAS YOU.
The next Journal Club meeting is Tuesday, November 17th, once again at 2pm in DM370. I will post more details over the next few weeks.
Historiography is central to the historian’s craft. At the most basic level, historiography is the history of history. If you do not know what has been written on a particular topic, the various interpretations of that topic, and the ongoing debates about it, then you cannot write good history. To quote a professor from my graduate school years, “you’ve got to know the gods and goddesses of the field.” The excellent Writing on History website from Queens College, CUNY includes a section on Historiographic Essays. As they suggest, one of the best ways to start exploring historiography is to write an annotated bibliography on a particular topic that interests you. One you have a clear idea of the major works and interpretations, then you can develop an argument about the historiographical development of that topic.
Worried that you are not being “smrt” on your history papers? Come chat with a Writing in History tutor in person. They are available Monday through Friday, usually 9am to 5pm. Learn more and make an appointment on our website.
Jon Gringerich’s list of twenty common grammar mistakes, in particular, covers a number of commonly confused pairs of words. For example, which and that, lay and lie, fewer and less, and the always tricky who and whom. Knowing how and when to use these various words will help improve the clarity and flow of your writing.
Best, Dr. Ferdinando