Contemporary Connections

  • 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…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • It’s Corruption All the Way Down – Dylan M. LeBlanc
    Most of my historical subjects were corrupt. Slave-owning, slave-trading, and self-dealing government officials on the edges of Britain’s Atlantic empire, they look today like veritable icons of moral decay. Of course, today’s standards don’t matter. Historians aren’t judges of the dead. We can recognize the evils of slavery, the temptations of duplicity, and separate fact from fiction. We seek, however, to explain the driving force of our narratives without making…
  • Romani History is American History – Ann Ostendorf
    Few Americans consider Romani people significant to the nation’s history. Unlike in Europe, where Romani people are officially counted as the “the largest European minority,” the United States lacks structures and stories that would make visible the individuals who claim this heritage. Despite this, historical sources reveal that members of this diverse diasporic community have been present in the Americas since the beginning of colonization. Famously, four “Egiptos” were sent…
  • The Culture of Money in Early America – Daniel Johnson
    Money regularly stood at the center of popular politics in British America. A dearth of currency in England’s colonies led provincial governments to experiment with paper money beginning in the 1690s, and by the middle of the eighteenth century numerous local currencies circulated throughout the Americas. Monetary policy was a regular source of public debate, as colonial newspapers and pamphlets featured arguments over credit relations, the nature of value, and…