Early American Studies

After 35 years of working and parenting I elected to go back to school and have finished my first year of post graduate Early American History study. I have enjoyed it considerably. Having the freedom to search out those areas of specific interest to me, select my own curriculum and learn at my own pace is exactly what I wanted to do. Several observations leap to mind that describe my learning experience this time as opposed to when I was a young man in College. The most striking realization is exactly how little I was actually taught in the 60’s and 70’s. I considered myself fairly well informed and now I find how little I actually knew about early America. Secondly I am thrilled at the progress of historical analysis with subsequent historians, booth older established scholars and the younger emerging set. More than ever I now understand how subjective almost everything historical is and in that light maintain a cautious acceptance of “historical facts” even those written by the participants.

I particularly focused on several areas of interactive interest: what led up to the revolution, how did the colonists progress from day 1 to 1776? Also how did slavery exist in a country that fought a war against being “enslaved.” How and why did liberty and slavery co-exist? Additionally I was and am particularly interested in how the “founding fathers” became who they were. How did the process evolve that led a bunch of different colonies dependent on the might of their European fore bearers decide to forgo the safety of their protection and come to revolution risking the very freedom that they fought for.

After some 20 or so historical books, several quarterly journals and a daily historical blog populated by emerging historians I feel much better prepared to enter into discussion with folks about these topics, but I am still keenly aware of how much I don’t know of the new and emerging historical analysis of early American History.

I find understanding the development of America helps me to better understand current events and sift through the vitriolic rhetoric of today’s constant campaign politics. I would offer that the continuous campaign mode of elected leaders is the biggest single difference between leaders 200 years ago and today.

I am eager for my sophomore year:)

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4 Responses

  1. Where are you doing this? USF?

    How many courses per semester / quarter? Real Classes or “directed independent study”, which si what I did a lot of at FPC / Eckerd.

    Are you actually working to a degree?

    Enquiring minds want to know!

    I really enjoyed my American history class at FPC. We looked at three events: revolution, Civil War and one more I can’t recall right now. We read three different historical viewpoints: conservative, moderate, and radical. Very eye-opening to see how the same event is interpreted based on viewpoint.

    Which is why I don’t believe the “truth” is out there. There are many truths…

    Let’s take slavery. Was the Revolution about “enslavement”? I’d suggest taxes was an important consideration. The “representation” issue arose because of taxes.

    So if “enslavement” was not the primary undercurrent of the Revolution, then why would they get rid of slavery? It was a conservative revolution. Slavery was necessary to the economy of the new country. So I am not at all surprised that it was left intact.

    Besides, do you believe the Southern states would have become part of the new country if slavery was to be abolished? The Articles of Confederation was the first “constitution.”

    When the “current” constitution came about, it had to be ratified by the states. What do you think the Southern states would have done if slavery was proposed to be abolished?

    So historically, I do not see how slavery could possibly have been abolished as part of the revolution and the new country. Do you?

  2. I am not enrolled in classes. I find I am disciplined enough to delve through the resources I have listed and find historical analysis that helps me understand what the colonists thought, what happened to them when they arrived in the colonies and the events that led to revolution and what would become American culture.

    “Let’s take slavery. Was the Revolution about “enslavement”? I’d suggest taxes was an important consideration. The “representation” issue arose because of taxes.”

    I can not answer that question to my own satisfaction in a blog. Hundreds of historical analyses exist with different sources and interpretations. What really makes the answer complex is the temptation to view history through the prism of today’s moors. I can give you a small insight through the pen and thoughts of Jefferson in an 1811 letter:

    “What in short, is the whole system of Europe towards America but an atrocious and insulting tyranny?”One Hemisphere of the earth, separated by wide seas on both sides, having a different system of interests flowing from different climates, different soils, different productions, different modes of existence, and its own local relations and duties,is made subservient to all the petty interests of the other, to their laws, their regulations, their passions and wars, and interdicted from social intercourse, from the interchange of mutual duties and comforts with their neighbors, enjoined on by all men by the laws of nature.Happily these abuses of human rights are drawing to a close on both continents.”

    These lines, written 35 years after 1776 reflect the ongoing smoldering resentment of all things British by the former colonists (now Americans) and their focus on freeing the WHITE Americans first, before turning a national conscience to Southern slavery.

    Jefferson had written into the Declaration of Independence words dealing with limiting it but they were struck out to gain support from the other Southern Colonies. He and Madison and Monroe all understood how wrong it was but allowed themselves to be stuck in its perpetuation.

    As I say I fond today’s scholars much more discerning in their historical approach than the myth builders of the first half of the 20th century.

  3. OK..

    The reason I asked about classes is because sometimes there is a value to exchange of ideas in the classroom, especially at younger age and especially with a professor who has a deeper exposure to the topic. I found that to be true for me in college. Of course, at our age, it is a different situation.

    Are you aware of Coursera, which has free online “courses” that lasyt a few weeks in many subjects from universities worldwide? I stumbled upon it when doing a search. I may take one when it offers a topic of interest.

    Link is:

    https://www.coursera.org/courses?orderby=upcoming&lngs=en

  4. The web based course site looks interesting I might be tempted to pursue some courses of interest. As for classroom courses while I agree that younger students benefit from interactive idea exchange it was my workplace environment for many years and the thought of it makes me feel like I’d be back at work. I enjoy the freedom of self education, particularly being able to find curricula and access descriptions of what the topics are about and who the authors are and then buying the books at Abe or other discount sites and reading at my own pace.

    Having access to internet resources really is a Hugh added advantage to home schooling.

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