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My Position on Confederate Monuments

In 2011 I published a piece at the Atlantic about the vandalism of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville. This week I was asked to reflect on how my […]

Tarleton’s Designs and Daughter

As a follow-up to yesterday’s posting about the British actress Mary Robinson, here’s an investigation by Sarah Murden of All Things Georgian about Robinson, her daughter, and her (their?) lover, Col. Banastre Tarleton:In 1797 MajorShow More Summary

Richmond’s Monument Avenue Will Be Transformed

This has been one hell of a week. I have done more media interviews over the past few days than I have over the past decade. In addition to interviews […]

Mary Robinson, Fashion Icon

Earlier this month, Prof. Terry F. Robinson wrote on the 18th-Century Common website about the British actress Mary Robinson (1757?-1800) and how she was an early example of a celebrity who shaped clothing fashion:Mary Robinson’s meteoric...Show More Summary

Elizabeth Armistead, Wife of Charles James Fox

Last month Geri Walton, author of Marie Antoinette’s Confidante, profiled Elizabeth Armistead (1750-1841).A courtesan and actress in London, Armistead was mistress to the second Viscount Bolingbroke; Gen. Richard Smith, head of the East...Show More Summary

Reviewing John Adams’s Political Ideas

Today’s leg of my trip takes me from Philadelphia to the Washington, D.C., area—a move the federal government made in John Adams’s administration.Here are extracts from Tom Cutterham’s review for the American Journal of Legal History...Show More Summary

Empty Pedestals Need to be Interpreted

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville we are now witnessing a wave of Confederate monument removals across the country. Yesterday a group tore down a Confederate soldier statue […]

Franklin’s Autobiography in Franklin’s Hand

Today I’m scheduled to travel from Boston to Philadelphia, much as young Benjamin Franklin did almost three centuries ago. The manuscript in which Franklin recounted his early life for his children can be viewed in digital form thanks to the library of the University of Pennsylvania. Show More Summary

How Your School Can Address the Confederate Monument Controversy

For this former resident of Charlottesville, Virginia the events of this past weekend hit close to home. My wife and I are still coming to terms with the violence and […]

Women in Debt

I’m about to embark on a summer road trip, so I’ve stockpiled a bunch of interesting items from various corners of the web. First up is an essay by Alex Wakelam on the Early Modern Prisons site about “The Persistent Presence of the Eighteenth-Century...Show More Summary

The Federal Government’s Monuments to White Supremacy

The violence in Charlottesville this past weekend has already pushed the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky to take steps to remove its Confederate monuments. A councilman in Baltimore wants to see […]

“Colonial hijinks, high political drama, and Revolutionary War heroes”

Daniel Ford, author of the upcoming novel Sid Sanford Lives!, wrote a very nice review of my book on the website for the Writers’ Bone podcast. It’s part of a roundup headlined “Books That Should Be on Your Radar”:J.L. Bell is a Massachusetts...Show More Summary

A Turning Point in the Confederate Monument Debate

Make no mistake about it, yesterday’s neo-Nazi rally in defense of the Robert E. Lee monument was a turning point in the broader debate about the place of these structures […]

Neo-Nazis Clarify Confederate Monument Debate for Richmond

This morning I am bracing for the steady stream of photographs and videos that will soon litter my social media feeds from my former home of Charlottesville, Virginia. As most […]

“Echoes of the Past” in Boston, 12 Aug.

On Saturday, 12 August, the Old State House in Boston is once again site for the Bostonian Society’s “Echoes of the Past” interactive history game. Join us in a full day of immersive history as we present an interactive history game that places you in the middle of the Stamp Act protest of 1765. Show More Summary

Abigail Adams Birthplace Tours, 13 Aug. & 10 Sept.

On 13 Oct 1764, Abigail Smith sent a note to the young lawyer John Adams from Boston:When I wrote you by the Doctor I was in hopes that I should have been out the next day, but my disorder did not leave me as I expected and I am still confind extreemly weak, and I believe low spirited. Show More Summary

Why I’m Dubious about the “letter from an officer in Charles-Town”

Yesterday I quoted a letter published in the Pennsylvania Packet in December 1781, reportedly written by a British army officer to a friend back home in May of that year.Some American newspapers reprinted the letter, stating it had appeared in the London press. Show More Summary

Let Richmond’s Kids Figure Out What to Do With the Monuments

Last night the Richmond Monument Avenue Commission held its first public forum at the Virginia Historical Society. It went about as well as I predicted. You can read about it […]

The Ultimate Failure of the Black Confederate Narrative

Many of you out there will be happy to hear that I am in the home stretch of my book on the Confederate camp slave and the myth of the […]

“An officer told Lord Cornwallis not long ago…”

On 11 Dec 1781 the Pennsylvania Packet newspaper published some news under the dateline “London, July 28.” That was the usual signal to readers that the following items were copied from the latest London newspaper to arrive in Philadelphia.Then...Show More Summary

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