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…

Teaching with Games Roundtable Q&A — Michael LaCombe with the Authors

What can games in general (Reacting To The Past – RTTP – and others) do that other teaching activities and strategies cannot? Many of your comments talk about student engagement, or collaboration, but to what teaching or learning end?  How do you channel or focus engagement into written and oral communication, content knowledge or other course goals? The pedagogical payoffs of a roleplaying game, as with other forms of experiential…

Distributing Representation: Are the Founders’ Ideas Still Useful in the 21st Century? – Robert J. Gough

The issues of the size of the House of Representatives and the apportionment of its members were not settled in 1792 and remain contentious in 2022. In the nearly century-and-a-half between 1790 and 1930, the House grew from 105 to 435 members, and Congress used several different methods to apportion them among the states. Politics always played a role in these decisions, but Congress also became entangled in what mathematicians…

Cancel Culture and Call Out Culture in Salem and Essex County, Massachusetts on the Eve of the American Revolution – Richard Morris

Today, much is made of “cancel culture,” or economically punishing those whose statements, ideas, and behaviors violate the values of various groups. Canceling can include calls for firing individuals who take objectionable stances; boycotting businesses that behave similarly; or, in the case of celebrities, steering clear of their performances. “Call out culture” also condemns offensive language and behaviors but is more often associated with pressure for apologies and reform than…

Tan cover page of The Soul’s Preparation for Christ. Or, a Treatise of Contrition. Wherein is discovered How God breaks the heart and wounds the Soul, in the conversion of a Sinner to Himself, by Thomas Hooker.

The “Protestant Ethic” in a Pandemic – Sarah Pawlicki

The above tweet made me chuckle from my kitchen table, where I’m working from home through the Omicron surge. It’s true that, regardless of COVID-19, I’m still as worried about producing dissertation chapters, syllabi, case studies, and grant applications as ever.   Despite significant differences in place, time, and culture, the abovementioned figurative journal entry lamenting the daily grind of the apocalypse would probably have also resonated with a Puritan hauling…

The Long-Enduring American Fancy for British Monarchy – Vaughn Scribner

For a country like the U.S. that violently divorced itself from the British monarchy almost 250 years ago and still jealously guards its role as the arbiter of “true” democracy, modern America is surely obsessed with the British royal family. We refer to many royals on a first-name basis—Diana, Will and Kate, Harry and Meghan—which suggests some sort of intimacy with these elusive figures. We celebrate others, like Queen Elizabeth…