Inaugural Meeting: September Journal Club


Dr Weimer and I are pleased to announce the formation of FIU History Journal Club. This combined discussion and workshop program will address student writing and research in a fun and friendly atmosphere.  Each month we will use a journal article as a springboard for discussion of various topics, including primary and secondary sources, the research and revision process, and transcription and translation.  This month it is primary sources!

Each Journal Club meeting will have two parts.  The first half of the meeting will be a discussion of the article.  While we will have a few prepared remarks about the reading, we intend to throw it open to the floor for broader discussion.  For example, you might mention what you thought about the piece and whether the author convinced you of their argument.  For our first meeting on primary source, you also should consider such things as how the historian interrogated the primary sources, how they integrated them into their article, and their selection of quotes from the sources.

The second half of the meeting will involve a more practical workshop.  For this month’s meeting on primary sources, Dr. Weimer and I will demonstrate the many possible ways to find primary sources using the ones from the article as examples.

Our inaugural Journal Club meeting thus will focus on finding and interrogating primary sources, and will be held on Tuesday, September 15 at 2pm in DM370.  The article we are all reading is Rachel B. Herrmann’s “The ‘tragicall historie’: Cannibalism and Abundance in Colonial Jamestown.”  It is a great piece that examines the early history of the Jamestown colony during and after the “Starving Time.”  Certain primary sources suggest that the some of the English colonists practiced cannibalism during this time of want, while other sources do not mention it.  Herrmann examines these sources, when they were written, who by, and for what purpose, all to investigate how rumors of cannibalism echoed through future decisions about the colony and contemporary interpretations of abundance.  It is a great example of scholarship that does more than merely read the primary source.  A link to the article is just below, and an abstract is further down the page.

Best, Dr. Ferdinando

If you are on FIU’s internet, you should be able to access directly the article through JSTOR:  Rachel B. Herrmann, “The ‘tragicall historie’: Cannibalism and Abundance in Colonial Jamestown.” The William and Mary Quarterly 68 (2011): 47-74.

If you are not on campus, you can still proxy in and access it through JSTOR: FIU Library EZ Proxy Off-campus Access.

Article Abstract:

In the winter of 1609–10, Jamestown colonists struggled through a period that came to be known as the Starving Time. Historians have generally accepted the validity of cannibalism stories that George Percy and John Smith wrote in the following decade and a half, despite other contemporary accounts arguing that cannibalism never took place. On the basis of the existing evidence, it is impossible to say whether early settlers ate corpses, Indians, or dead wives; a more answerable question is how people in Virginia and London made use of cannibalism rumors for their own purposes. In the 1610s and 1620s, Starving Time narratives were responsible for effecting new laws about food production and consumption. Writers crafted their tales to reassure colonial investors that the Virginia project was still solvent. Such publications changed the idea of abundance, creating a turning point that forced colonists to become industrious producers rather than lazy gatherers. This reassessment of the Starving Time examines abundance in early Virginia and how seventeenth-century transformations of that concept created one of America’s first founding myths: that of avoiding starvation in the New World.