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Portrait of the Artist as a World Traveler

On the left side of Johann Zoffany’s group portrait of the Royal Academy in 1771-72, toward the back of the crowd, is an unusual face for eighteenth-century London: a Chinese artist named Tan Chitqua.The Oxford Dictionary of National...Show More Summary

What’s In a List? I’ll Tell You

Megan Kate Nelson’s new post at Historista is sure to keep the controversy surrounding James McPherson’s recent New York Times “best of” list alive. There are two issues discussed in her post that I think are best kept separate even though there is some overlap. First, Megan highlights the extent to which academia remains an […]

Why Can’t We Get Beyond an “Aloof” Stonewall Jackson?

Do we need another five hundered page biography of Stonewall Jackson? Sure, why not. And from what little I’ve read so far, S.C. Gwynne can certainly turn a phrase. That said, I was hoping for a more nuanced look at Jackson’s understanding of politics and specifically the politics of slavery on the eve of the... Continue reading

Making an Exception for Exceptionalism

When I first wrote about criticisms of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History guidelines last month, Boston 1775 reader and teacher Jimmy Dick sensed that a lot of the criticism grew from “a deep seated belief in American Exceptionalism.”...Show More Summary

What I Told the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History

This morning I had a pleasant conversation with the executive director of the Danville (Va.) Museum of Fine Arts & History about how to respond to public concerns regarding plans to remove a Confederate flag from the grounds. I am not sure how they came by my name, but I was happy to listen and... Continue reading

An Exceptional Thinker in Colorado

During the ongoing debate over teaching U.S. history in Colorado, one member of the state Board of Education, Pam Mazanec of Larkspur, commented on Facebook that she felt that the Advanced Placement U.S. history course would “portray...Show More Summary

North Carolina to Construct Civil War History Center

While Virginia has done more than any other state to commemorate the Civil War 150th, North Carolina is not far behind. In addition to conferences and various exhibits, you can now add a history center to the list. It looks like an ambitious project.

Re-created Civil War-era perfume for sale

A Bermuda perfume seller is marketing a fragrance based on some found in the wreck of a Confederate blockade runner, the Mary Celeste, that sank in a storm in 1864 off the coast of Bermuda. Along with the bottles of fine English-made perfume, she also took with her a much-needed load of ammunition. Show More Summary

The Crux of the U.S. History Debate in Colorado

Last month I wrote a few postings about the controversy over the new guidelines for the Advanced Placement U.S. History test and course.I found that some prominent complaints about those guidelines were simply false, and that the most...Show More Summary

Virginia Flaggers Looking For Disaffected Students and Alumni

The Virginia Flaggers have now been on the ground for the past few weeks in Lexington protesting W&L’s decision to remove replica Confederate flags from the chapel and yet we have yet to see a single photograph of a student or alumni on the grounds calling for their return. “Plenty of support” indeed, just not... Continue reading

About James McPherson’s List

This past week The New York Times featured James McPherson in its “By the Book” series. McPherson was asked a couple of questions about those books that influenced his development as a scholar and who he sees as currently shaping the field.  Well, his responses touched off an interesting discussion on the feed of one... Continue reading

Colonial Brickwork

Growing up in Boston exposes people to an above-average amount of Revolutionary history, and that can come out in many ways. For Brendan Powell Smith, a native of Norwood and graduate of Boston University, one outlet is the Revolution!:...Show More Summary

“He Had Twelve Slaves, I Don’t Feel Bad For Him”

That was CNN Anderson Cooper’s response to learning that his ancestor, Burel Boykin, had been killed by a rebellious slave, which you will be able to see in the new season of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates. It’s impossible for me to know how I would respond to learning such news, but I... Continue reading

A Mysterious Saber in Guysborough

This is my favorite news story of the week. Though I suppose I should say “favourite.”Homeowners in Guysborough, Nova Scotia, were having some renovations done when the workers brought down a saber they had found behind a wall.Specifically,...Show More Summary

Sensing the Civil War

Earlier this week Oxford University Press sent me a review copy of Mark Smith’s new book, The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War. It’s a short book so I decided to jump right in and although I enjoyed Listening to Nineteenth-Century America, this one fell short in... Continue reading

Pam Mazanec Should Have Taken AP US History Before Trying to Revise It

I’ve been following the story out of Colorado surrounding the Board of Education’s concerns about the revised AP United States History curriculum. Earlier today and following protests by both teachers and students the board backed off from any plans to challenge the curriculum in the classroom. From the beginning it was clear that the position... Continue reading

Anniversary of the death of Lt. John Meigs

One hundred and fifty years ago today, Oct. 3, 1864, the eldest son of the influential Union Army’s Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs  was shot and killed in the Shenandoah Valley while scouting a wooded area in Dayton, Va. The death of Lt. Show More Summary

“Last Capital of the Confederacy” to Remove Flag

There are three narratives that have come to define our Civil War sesquicentennial. They include the story of the black Union soldier, along with emancipation, as the dominant narrative as well as the rise of the Civil War in the West and guerrilla warfare. The last one has to be the steady retreat of Confederate... Continue reading

Just One More History Comic

Adventure Comics, #296, from May 1962 featured a story titled “Benjamin Franklin’s Super-Reporter.” It was drawn by Al Plastino, and some fans think the script was by Bill Finger, best known for co-creating Batman.The story, according...Show More Summary

Rounding Out the “History in Comics” Panel in Cambridge, 4 Oct.

As I’ve mentioned, on Saturday I’m moderating a panel at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo in Cambridge about “History in Comics.”Two of the panelists are Jason Rodriguez, editor of the new Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750, and E. Show More Summary

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