The Pig of Knowledge: The Career of a Concept – Dan Richter

The Pig of Knowledge and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies (MCEAS) grew up together. The porcine horizon—as archaeologists might call the Pig’s first appearance in the Center’s material culture—occurred in 1998, the same year in which the former Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies assumed its current name. The porker’s premier was abrupt, and two-fold: The Pig of Knowledge graced both the 1997–1998 fellows’ class memorial tee-shirt and…

Roundtable: Teaching with Games – Michael LaCombe, Guest Editor

Preliminary Reflections – Rose Beiler and Judy Ridner, Co-Editors, EAS Miscellany Jump to Guest Editor Introduction | Jump to Games Roundtable Posts To what extent are games an effective and even inspiring pedagogy for teaching early American studies? What challenges do instructors and students confront when using games to teach? More specifically, to what extent do immersive, role-playing games like Reacting to the Past encourage students to more actively engage…

The Royal Geographical Pastime: A Game from 1770 – Holly Brewer

For several years now I have had students in my U.S. history classes play The Royal Geographical Pastime: Exhibiting a Complete Tour Round The World. In which are delineated the North East and North West Passages into the South Sea, and other modern Discoveries.  Thomas Jeffreys, “geographer to the King,” who created and published it in London in 1770 at a moment when the British empire was very powerful, intended…

Indigenous Perspectives and Historical Empathy – Maeve Kane

After portraying Benjamin Franklin in the Reacting to the Past game Forest Diplomacy, one of my students, who is enrolled at the Seneca Nation, said that she finally understood why settlers did what they did. She wrote in her post-game reflection that it was not until she had to inhabit the role of Franklin and advocate for Indigenous dispossession that she really understood why settlers had pushed (and continue to…

Gaming the Framing: To Teach the Convention, the Constitution, and the Founding – John Patrick Coby

A Convention delegate—who shall go unnamed—while researching the backgrounds of his colleagues in Philadelphia, has uncovered information of a compromising nature; and being something of a scoundrel himself, he resolves to use that information in ways that will advance his own interests. One by one he approaches his targets, intimating that, for considerations, he might be willing to keep quiet about their secrets. When he comes upon Alexander Hamilton and…

Reacting to the Past for Early Americanists – Elizabeth George

Class was over. It had been over for five minutes. I could see the next class growing restless in the hall. I interrupted a heated exchange among my students with an “ok, we’ll decide if he lives or dies next time!” The students immediately broke into smaller groups, everyone talking quickly, even as the next class came in and forced them away from the tables.  This is a typical class…

Building Student Engagement with Reacting to the Past – Christopher E. Hendricks

A widow who runs a tavern in Manhattan stands before a gathering of representatives, some loyal to the Crown, others interested in severing their ties with Great Britain and establishing a new government. A group of women, enslaved people, craftsmen, and others listen as she petitions the august body to recognize property and voting rights for women in New York, when suddenly a mob forms and storms the assembly. The…

Controlled Chaos: Roleplaying Revolution in Southeast Texas – Brendan Gillis

“We were acting more like the Paris Commune than the American Revolution,” a particularly perceptive student noted after a chaotic class session in Fall 2021.  Our upper-division history course on the revolutionary era was nearing the midpoint of a four-week unit given over to Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776, a roleplaying game in the Reacting to the Past series.1 By this point, the students to whom…

Harnessing Competitiveness for Good in RTTP Games – Brett Palfreyman 

As a historian at a small college, I have the privilege of branching out beyond my area of specialization to teach courses in different regions, time periods, and themes. I have overseen Reacting to the Past (RTTP) games that recreate debates over the merits of democracy in Ancient Athens or discussions about the validity of the scientific method outlined in Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. But, as an Early Americanist,…

Challenging Myths through Gameplay: Reacting to the Past and Popular Ideology in the Classroom – Joshua J. Jeffers

A few years ago, I was teaching the second half of the U.S. history survey course and using the Reacting to the Past game Greenwich Village, 1913.1 My class included a student who had completed the first half of the survey with me where I had used Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York, and this student had excelled at it, ultimately planning and leading a successful slave revolt, a…