Teaser Tuesday: Why do readers clamor for books about people they’ve already heard of?

Hey, kids:  It’s publication day.  Huzzah!  The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright (Yale University Press, 2016) has officially dropped!  Now you can read all about the 7-year old Anglo-American girl from New England, taken in wartime by the Wabanaki, who became a student and then choir nun at the Ursuline convent in Québec.  She then became the one (and still the only) foreign-born mother superior of her order.  What a life! Or more properly, what lives, plural.

I’ll be offering a few tantalizing excerpts from the book every Tuesday until it gets optioned for a screenplay, or until I make my massive advance back for the press, or both.  Ha!  So if you want to stop seeing this lady’s pink, squinty face peering out at you from that old wimple, do your part and buy a copy.  If you can’t afford a copy, ask your university and local libraries to buy a copy, so you can share.

Future topics may include:  What did children play with in early New England?  How did warfare affect Wabanaki foodways? How did Esther become a Wabanaki child?  What was it like to be at the Governor’s house for dinner in Québec?  How did girls and women deal with menstruation in the eighteenth century?  Why did the Ursulines call Esther Anglaise rather than Abnaquise?  Did the Ursulines engage in bodily mortification?  What was daily life like for the soeurs converses (lay sisters), who performed the domestic labor in the convent?  Let me know about your questions, too–I take requests. Continue reading

OMG. LOLz! WTF? “Shrill tyranny of the left” to blame for the Human Stain, everything wrong in the nation.

wtfThe New York Times apparently has an inexhaustible supply of so-called liberals who are baffled and enraged by any criticism of their views by the so-called “left.”  Desperately worried that Yale’s 2015 Halloween memo has faded into distant memory, they publish Lionel Shriver’s complaint that young people criticized her opinions on social media!  As the kids these days say:  Srsly!

When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.

.       .       .       .        .

As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.

Continue reading

The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright gets a rave review in the Maine Sunday Telegram

tmcoewcoverThe Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright gets a rave review in this morning’s Maine Sunday Telegram (the Sunday edition of the Portland Press Herald, FYI):

Ann M. Little’s telling of Esther Wheelwright’s story illuminates issues of class, status and gender through the 18th century and across continents.

In her intriguing new biography, “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright,” Ann M. Little asks a rhetocial question: Why would the portrait of this Ursuline nun be there in the Massachusetts Historical Society collection “amid this collection of prominent Puritans and wealthy merchants, in the company of men she would have disagreed with on nearly every issue, great or small?”

“And yet, there she is,” writes Little, associate professor of history at Colorado State University, “the pink face floating in the glowing white wimple, wearing that determined look.”

For the past year, I’ve wondered if my choice to put her portrait on the cover was the right one.  My initial rationale was, “hey, biographies of the so-called “Founding Fathers” always feature one of their many oil portraits on the cover–my argument here is that Esther Wheelwright is worthy of the same treatment, so of course!”  On the other hand:  what do Anglophone Americans think when they see a nun on the cover of a book?  They probably don’t see “Important Early American,” but rather “representative of subculture” or even “flashback to Catholic school thirty, forty, or fifty years ago!”

This review by William David Barry ratifies my decision to put the portrait on the cover and to write about it on the first few pages.  (Nevertheless, I still wonder:  I just found out yesterday that the book’s Library of Congress call number is in the BX section, with other biographies of famous Catholic religious people.  The portrait of the nun right on the cover probably overdetermined this, but I had wondered if my book would be in the F1-100 section (New England History) or the F1000s (early Quebec).  I never thought I’d have a book in the religious history section, but I understand. Continue reading

Big, big news: we are searching for an Assistant Professor of Public History w/specialization in Museums

Your future home?

Your future home?

Yes, it’s true, and I’m the search chair!  If you’re a public historian with experience and training in museums, please apply for this position. If you know anyone whose training and experience is in museums, please share this job ad with them.  Review of applications will begin on November 1, 2016.

From the long position description:

The Department of History at Colorado State University invites applications for the position of Assistant Professor of Public History, with a specialization in Museums.  The research field is open. The department is especially interested in receiving applications from candidates who can teach broadly within Public History and whose research extends beyond the United States.  This is an entry-level position beginning August 16, 2017.  The successful candidate will be appointed untenured and at the rank of assistant professor.

Continue reading

The prince’s body and the body politic, 2016

Henry VII and Henry VIII at left, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour, at right. Copy of the Holbein's Whitehall Mural, ca. 1667

Henry VIII and Henry VII on the left, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour on the right. Copy of Hans Holbein’s Whitehall Mural, ca. 1667

(Deep background:  This post recalls some of my earlier arguments about the dynastic nature of American politics, about which Americans are mostly in denial, at least when the dynasties involve male pols only.  American politics became even more royalist in the first half of the twentieth century, when the U.S. emerged as a major international player.  They’ve become even more royalist in the succeeding 70 years since World War II, in the years that the U.S. became a “superpower” and then the global hegemon.)

Queen Elizabeth I, 1592, by Marcus Gheeraerts

Queen Elizabeth I, 1592, by Marcus Gheeraerts

Hillary Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia last week.  It’s an entirely treatable condition suffered by more than one recent pol on the campaign trail, but looking at the media coverage of this ridiculous non-story, you’d think that she was Henry VIII on his death bed without a male heir.  And that’s the American press coverage–it’s almost as though reporters on the 2016 campaign trail are unaware that the health of the nation is not entirely dependent on the health and heartiness of our Dear Leaders. Continue reading

Richard (Rick) Beeman, 1942-2016

Richard (Rick) Beeman

Richard (Rick) Beeman

My friend Wayne Bodle, another alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania Department of History, wrote to me yesterday with some remembrances of an emeritus Professor, Richard Beeman, who died Monday of complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease.) He has agreed to let me share them with you, and we both invite any of you who knew Rick to share your memories too–whether you are “Old Pennsters” (as Richard Dunn calls us) or not.

Here are Wayne’s memories of Rick, which go back almost as far as Rick’s “freshman year” as a professor in 1968– Continue reading