Download the schedule for 2018-2019 here!

The Boston Area Seminar on Early American History 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. Programs are not confined to Massachusetts topics, and most focus on works in progress.


Most seminar meetings revolve around the discussion of a pre-circulated 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.

Attendance is free and open to everyone. Subscribers who remit $25 for the year will receive early online access to any pre-circulated materials. Subscriptions also underwrite the cost of the series. Pre-circulated materials will be available to non-subscribers who have RSVP’d for a session on the Monday prior to the program. Subscribe to this seminar series and you will receive access to the seminar papers for FOUR series: the Boston Seminar on African American History, the Boston-Area Seminar on Early American History, the Boston Seminar on Environmental History, and the Boston Seminar on Modern American Society and Culture. We recognize that topics frequently resonate across these four fields; now, mix and match the seminars that you attend!

 

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the latest scholarship. Subscribe

October

Early American History Seminar The Protestant Cult of the Dead in New England, 1800-1848 2 October 2018.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Erik Seeman, State University of New York at Buffalo Comment: Kenneth Minkema, Yale University Many 19th-century Protestants in New England held religious ceremonies venerating deceased family ...

Many 19th-century Protestants in New England held religious ceremonies venerating deceased family and friends, in addition to their orthodox worship of God. This paper examines women’s desires to connect with their deceased loved ones, and argues that this drove important developments in Protestant belief and practice. It shows how pious Protestants maintaining connections with the dead made séance Spiritualism a transatlantic sensation in 1848.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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November
Early American History Seminar “A Rotten-Hearted Fellow”: The Rise of Alexander McDougall 6 November 2018.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Christopher Minty, the Adams Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society Comment: Brendan McConville, Boston University Historians have often grouped the DeLanceys of New York as self-interested opportunists who were ...

Historians have often grouped the DeLanceys of New York as self-interested opportunists who were destined to become loyalists. By focusing on the rise of Alexander McDougall, this paper offers a new interpretation, demonstrating how the DeLanceys and McDougall mobilized groups with competing visions of New York’s political economy. These prewar factions stayed in opposition until the Revolutionary War, thus shedding new light on the coming of the American Revolution.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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December
Early American History Seminar “Attend to the Opium”: Boston's Trade with China in the Early 19th Century 4 December 2018.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Gwenn Miller, College of the Holy Cross Comment: Dael Norwood, University of Delaware The opium trade is the nefarious flip-side of the opulence of the American China trade. The ...

The opium trade is the nefarious flip-side of the opulence of the American China trade. The involvement of so many Boston families in this trade would contribute to the growth of the city and its institutions by the end of the nineteenth century. Homes decorated with Chinese art, porcelains, silks, and meticulously curated gardens were made possible by profits initially rooted in the fur trade, and in large part sustained by opium.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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January
Early American History Seminar The Consecration of Samuel Seabury and the Crisis of Atlantic Episcopacy, 1782-1807 8 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Brent Sirota, North Carolina State University Comment: Chris Beneke, Bentley University Samuel Seabury’s consecration in 1784 signaled a transformation in the organization of ...

Samuel Seabury’s consecration in 1784 signaled a transformation in the organization of American Protestantism. After more than a century of resistance to the office of bishops, American Methodists and Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans all established some form of episcopal superintendency after the Peace of Paris. This paper considers how the making of American episcopacy and the controversies surrounding it betrayed a lack of consensus regarding the relationship between church, state and civil society in the Protestant Atlantic.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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February
Early American History Seminar Making Money in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: the Boston Mint, 1652-1686 5 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Mara Caden, MHS-NEH Fellow Comment: Penelope Ismay, Boston College In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site ...

In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site of the sole colonial mint. Based on new research in MHS collections, this papers tells the political and technological story of this mint, which furnished the colony with silver money for thirty years, and reveals the close relationship between currency and industrial development.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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March
Early American History Seminar Parson Weems: Maker and Remaker 5 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge ...

This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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April
Early American History Seminar Naming Plantations in the 17th-Century English Atlantic 2 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Paul Musselwhite, Dartmouth College Comment: Cynthia Van Zandt, University of New Hampshire The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, ...

The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, public process intended to serve the interests of god and the commonwealth. How and why did this civic language become transformed into a place for the private pursuit of agricultural wealth? This paper uncovers the ways ordinary men and women grappled with the definition of plantation by systematically investigating the names they gave to the places they termed “plantations.”

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
May
Early American History Seminar Panel: After the Fighting: The Struggle for Revolutionary Settlement 7 May 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire; Katherine Grandjean, Wellesley College; Stephen Marini, Wellesley College; Brendan McConville, Boston University Moderator: TBD In the ten years after the American victory at Yorktown in 1781, the nation faced myriad problems ...

In the ten years after the American victory at Yorktown in 1781, the nation faced myriad problems and challenges. This panel examines how the revolutionary generation confronted issues of diplomacy, governance and economic growth, and how the legacies of warfare and political convulsion shaped spiritual and social behaviors in those troubled years.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
More events
Early American History Seminar The Protestant Cult of the Dead in New England, 1800-1848 2 October 2018.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Erik Seeman, State University of New York at Buffalo Comment: Kenneth Minkema, Yale University

Many 19th-century Protestants in New England held religious ceremonies venerating deceased family and friends, in addition to their orthodox worship of God. This paper examines women’s desires to connect with their deceased loved ones, and argues that this drove important developments in Protestant belief and practice. It shows how pious Protestants maintaining connections with the dead made séance Spiritualism a transatlantic sensation in 1848.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar “A Rotten-Hearted Fellow”: The Rise of Alexander McDougall 6 November 2018.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Christopher Minty, the Adams Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society Comment: Brendan McConville, Boston University

Historians have often grouped the DeLanceys of New York as self-interested opportunists who were destined to become loyalists. By focusing on the rise of Alexander McDougall, this paper offers a new interpretation, demonstrating how the DeLanceys and McDougall mobilized groups with competing visions of New York’s political economy. These prewar factions stayed in opposition until the Revolutionary War, thus shedding new light on the coming of the American Revolution.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar “Attend to the Opium”: Boston's Trade with China in the Early 19th Century Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 4 December 2018.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Gwenn Miller, College of the Holy Cross Comment: Dael Norwood, University of Delaware

The opium trade is the nefarious flip-side of the opulence of the American China trade. The involvement of so many Boston families in this trade would contribute to the growth of the city and its institutions by the end of the nineteenth century. Homes decorated with Chinese art, porcelains, silks, and meticulously curated gardens were made possible by profits initially rooted in the fur trade, and in large part sustained by opium.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar The Consecration of Samuel Seabury and the Crisis of Atlantic Episcopacy, 1782-1807 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 8 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Brent Sirota, North Carolina State University Comment: Chris Beneke, Bentley University

Samuel Seabury’s consecration in 1784 signaled a transformation in the organization of American Protestantism. After more than a century of resistance to the office of bishops, American Methodists and Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans all established some form of episcopal superintendency after the Peace of Paris. This paper considers how the making of American episcopacy and the controversies surrounding it betrayed a lack of consensus regarding the relationship between church, state and civil society in the Protestant Atlantic.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Making Money in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: the Boston Mint, 1652-1686 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 5 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Mara Caden, MHS-NEH Fellow Comment: Penelope Ismay, Boston College

In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site of the sole colonial mint. Based on new research in MHS collections, this papers tells the political and technological story of this mint, which furnished the colony with silver money for thirty years, and reveals the close relationship between currency and industrial development.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Parson Weems: Maker and Remaker Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 5 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University

This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Naming Plantations in the 17th-Century English Atlantic Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 2 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Paul Musselwhite, Dartmouth College Comment: Cynthia Van Zandt, University of New Hampshire

The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, public process intended to serve the interests of god and the commonwealth. How and why did this civic language become transformed into a place for the private pursuit of agricultural wealth? This paper uncovers the ways ordinary men and women grappled with the definition of plantation by systematically investigating the names they gave to the places they termed “plantations.”

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Panel: After the Fighting: The Struggle for Revolutionary Settlement Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 7 May 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire; Katherine Grandjean, Wellesley College; Stephen Marini, Wellesley College; Brendan McConville, Boston University Moderator: TBD

In the ten years after the American victory at Yorktown in 1781, the nation faced myriad problems and challenges. This panel examines how the revolutionary generation confronted issues of diplomacy, governance and economic growth, and how the legacies of warfare and political convulsion shaped spiritual and social behaviors in those troubled years.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close