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The Boston Area Early American History Seminar provides a forum for local scholars as well as members of the general public to discuss all aspects of North American history and culture from the first English colonization to the early republic. Six to eight sessions take place annually during the academic year. Programs are not confined to Massachusetts topics, and most focus on works in progress.


Seminar meetings revolve around the discussion of a precirculated paper. Sessions open with remarks from the essayist and an assigned commentator, after which the discussion is opened to the floor. After each session, the Society serves a light buffet supper.

 

Subscribe to this seminar series for $25, and you will receive access to the seminar papers for THREE series: the Boston Area Early American History Seminar, the Boston Environmental History Seminar, and the Boston Seminar on Modern American Society and Culture. We recognize that topics frequently resonate across these three fields; now, mix and match the seminars that you attend!

October

Early American History Seminar Reconsidering Slavery and Slave Law in Early Massachusetts 4 October 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Holly Brewer, University of Maryland Comment: Annettte Gordon-Reed, Harvard Law School The consensus among historians has largely been that Massachusetts was unexceptional in its ...

The consensus among historians has largely been that Massachusetts was unexceptional in its attitudes towards slavery; recent scholarship contends that the colony laid a foundation for enslavement and perpetuated its practices elsewhere. However, this paper emphasizes that there was considerable resistance to ideas of forced labor embedded within Puritan ideology as it offers a nuanced reading of the Massachusetts policy debates of the 1640s during the critical first period of slavery in the colonies.

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November
Early American History Seminar Rape, Recourse, and the Law of Seduction in the Early Republic 1 November 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM John Wood Sweet, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Comment: Richard D. Brown, University of Connecticut In New York City in 1793 Henry Bedlow was tried for, but not convicted of, the rape of Lanah Sawyer. ...

In New York City in 1793 Henry Bedlow was tried for, but not convicted of, the rape of Lanah Sawyer. This paper questions the success of the civil lawsuit for seduction that Sawyer’s step-father, John Callanan, brought one year later. The case offers a window into the use of civil law in sexual assault cases and prompts readers to consider how women struggling for recourse can become pawns in battles between men over money and masculine honor.

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December
Early American History Seminar Panel: Loyalism 6 December 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Liam Riordan, University of Maine at Orono, and Christina Carrick, Boston University Comment: Steve Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Riordan’s essay, “Revisiting Thomas Hutchinson: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Loyalist ...

Riordan’s essay, “Revisiting Thomas Hutchinson: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Loyalist Biography” argues that loyalism’s deep colonial roots, wartime travails, and British Atlantic diaspora are its most important qualities. Hutchinson’s place at the center of our understanding of the subject causes us to lose critical aspects of the loyalist experience. Carrick’s essay, “‘The earlier we form good Connections the better’: David Greene's Loyalist Merchant Network in the Revolutionary Atlantic,” explores how some Loyalist refugees, like Greene, found ways to develop new prospects and connections while in exile. After returning to Boston in 1785 Greene used his social and commercial connections to the wartime enemy to make himself appealing in the new Republic.

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February
Early American History Seminar The Coromantee War in Jamaica: Charting the Course of an Atlantic Slave Revolt 7 February 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Vincent Brown, Harvard University Comment: Malick Ghachem, MIT Drawn from Brown’s current book project, this essay will discuss African diasporic warfare in ...

Drawn from Brown’s current book project, this essay will discuss African diasporic warfare in the Americas. It puts the Jamaican Revolt of 1760-61 in the context of a dramatic series of 17th- and 18th-century revolts and conspiracies that were staged by enslaved Africans from the Gold Coast, known widely as “Coromantees."

More
March
Early American History Seminar A History of Violence: The Harpe Murders and the Legacies of the American Revolution 7 March 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Kate Grandjean, Wellesley College Comment: Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire This paper looks at a series of murders in Appalachia in the 1790s, committed by former loyalists. ...

This paper looks at a series of murders in Appalachia in the 1790s, committed by former loyalists. By following the lives of the Harpe brothers, who left a trail of blood through early Tennessee and Kentucky, it explores the violent legacies of the American Revolution—especially in the southern borderlands. 

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April
Early American History Seminar Promotional Literature and Identity in Colonial Massachusetts 4 April 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Agnès Delahaye, Université Lumière Lyon II Comment: Conrad E. Wright, Massachusetts Historical Society This essay will examine the institutional and cultural factors behind promotional literature, the ...

This essay will examine the institutional and cultural factors behind promotional literature, the body of colonial sources written for metropolitan audiences. All share the common intent of promoting, or defending, the political or economic choices made by the colonists as their communities were taking shape. The essay will detail the tropes and expressions of the commonality of purpose that Delahaye sees in most New England historiography. It will also explore the relationship between colonial historiography and exceptionalism in the New England tradition.

More
May
Early American History Seminar Panel: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Friends 2 May 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Philip Gould, Brown University, and Thomas Balcerski, Eastern Connecticut State University Comment: Maurice Lee, Boston University Gould’s essay, “Hawthorne and the State of War,” reads the under-studied travel ...

Gould’s essay, “Hawthorne and the State of War,” reads the under-studied travel memoir Our Old Home (1863) as a meditation on the important—and, as he saw it, troubling—transformation of state power during the US Civil War. Balcerski’s essay, “‘A Work of Friendship’: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Franklin Pierce, and the Politics of Literary History,” traces the evolution of their conjoined personal and political friendship from 1852 to 1864 and argues for its significance during this final phase of their public lives.

More
More events
Early American History Seminar Reconsidering Slavery and Slave Law in Early Massachusetts 4 October 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Holly Brewer, University of Maryland Comment: Annettte Gordon-Reed, Harvard Law School

The consensus among historians has largely been that Massachusetts was unexceptional in its attitudes towards slavery; recent scholarship contends that the colony laid a foundation for enslavement and perpetuated its practices elsewhere. However, this paper emphasizes that there was considerable resistance to ideas of forced labor embedded within Puritan ideology as it offers a nuanced reading of the Massachusetts policy debates of the 1640s during the critical first period of slavery in the colonies.

close
Early American History Seminar Rape, Recourse, and the Law of Seduction in the Early Republic 1 November 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM John Wood Sweet, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Comment: Richard D. Brown, University of Connecticut

In New York City in 1793 Henry Bedlow was tried for, but not convicted of, the rape of Lanah Sawyer. This paper questions the success of the civil lawsuit for seduction that Sawyer’s step-father, John Callanan, brought one year later. The case offers a window into the use of civil law in sexual assault cases and prompts readers to consider how women struggling for recourse can become pawns in battles between men over money and masculine honor.

close
Early American History Seminar Panel: Loyalism 6 December 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Liam Riordan, University of Maine at Orono, and Christina Carrick, Boston University Comment: Steve Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Riordan’s essay, “Revisiting Thomas Hutchinson: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Loyalist Biography” argues that loyalism’s deep colonial roots, wartime travails, and British Atlantic diaspora are its most important qualities. Hutchinson’s place at the center of our understanding of the subject causes us to lose critical aspects of the loyalist experience. Carrick’s essay, “‘The earlier we form good Connections the better’: David Greene's Loyalist Merchant Network in the Revolutionary Atlantic,” explores how some Loyalist refugees, like Greene, found ways to develop new prospects and connections while in exile. After returning to Boston in 1785 Greene used his social and commercial connections to the wartime enemy to make himself appealing in the new Republic.

close
Early American History Seminar The Coromantee War in Jamaica: Charting the Course of an Atlantic Slave Revolt Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 7 February 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Vincent Brown, Harvard University Comment: Malick Ghachem, MIT

Drawn from Brown’s current book project, this essay will discuss African diasporic warfare in the Americas. It puts the Jamaican Revolt of 1760-61 in the context of a dramatic series of 17th- and 18th-century revolts and conspiracies that were staged by enslaved Africans from the Gold Coast, known widely as “Coromantees."

close
Early American History Seminar A History of Violence: The Harpe Murders and the Legacies of the American Revolution Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 7 March 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Kate Grandjean, Wellesley College Comment: Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire

This paper looks at a series of murders in Appalachia in the 1790s, committed by former loyalists. By following the lives of the Harpe brothers, who left a trail of blood through early Tennessee and Kentucky, it explores the violent legacies of the American Revolution—especially in the southern borderlands. 

close
Early American History Seminar Promotional Literature and Identity in Colonial Massachusetts Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 4 April 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Agnès Delahaye, Université Lumière Lyon II Comment: Conrad E. Wright, Massachusetts Historical Society

This essay will examine the institutional and cultural factors behind promotional literature, the body of colonial sources written for metropolitan audiences. All share the common intent of promoting, or defending, the political or economic choices made by the colonists as their communities were taking shape. The essay will detail the tropes and expressions of the commonality of purpose that Delahaye sees in most New England historiography. It will also explore the relationship between colonial historiography and exceptionalism in the New England tradition.

close
Early American History Seminar Panel: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Friends Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 2 May 2017.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Philip Gould, Brown University, and Thomas Balcerski, Eastern Connecticut State University Comment: Maurice Lee, Boston University

Gould’s essay, “Hawthorne and the State of War,” reads the under-studied travel memoir Our Old Home (1863) as a meditation on the important—and, as he saw it, troubling—transformation of state power during the US Civil War. Balcerski’s essay, “‘A Work of Friendship’: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Franklin Pierce, and the Politics of Literary History,” traces the evolution of their conjoined personal and political friendship from 1852 to 1864 and argues for its significance during this final phase of their public lives.

close

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