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Category: History and Historians

The Coward John White

The Coward John White

The failed governor of a failed colonial enterprise, sent packing from what would soon become the fabled “Lost Colony” of Roanoke, and a pretend aristocrat whose patron procured for him a bargain-basement coat-of-arms, John White was also an “important” and “renowned” artist whose “vivid” and “lifelike” images included an Algonquian woman he depicted with two right feet.  Nearly everything John White touched turned to shit. White did not lack for experience, we are told. He likely sailed aboard one of…

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The Stories We Ought to Tell

The Stories We Ought to Tell

I have always loved Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Her reflections on the historical enterprise in which we all are engaged inform in ways great and small what I try to do in much of my teaching and writing.  “History,” she writes, “is like weather, not like checkers.”  A board game comes to an end, but the weather, “in its complexity, in its shifts, in the way something triggers its opposite, just as a heat…

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The Sins You Forget Can Never Be Forgiven

The Sins You Forget Can Never Be Forgiven

And the sins you forget, you may commit again. Are there historical sins that can never be forgiven? Are their historical crimes so great that the guilt can never be washed away? Last week a story appeared in the New York Times  announcing that the “Holocaust is Fading from Memory.” Many adults, according to a recent survey, “lack basic knowledge of what happened—and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18…

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The Allure of the Archives, and the Accompanying Responsibility

The Allure of the Archives, and the Accompanying Responsibility

I recently finished reading Arlette Farge’s The Allure of the Archives. It’s a beautiful little book, written originally in French, translated into English by Thomas Scott-Railton. Farge’s journey into the archives brought her into contact with the denizens of 18th century Paris, ordinary men and women who entered the historical record only because they found themselves dragged before authorities as accusers and victims, witnesses or perpetrators. They came to advocate for their cause, to protect or recover their property, to…

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Roanoke Bibliography

Roanoke Bibliography

This semester I am teaching a freshman writing seminar at Geneseo on the Lost Colony of Roanoke.  The students have now finished reading through the bulk of David Beers Quinn’s famous collection of source material, and will begin writing their own papers this week.  I compiled this bibliography, which I will share with them, at least in part to bring myself up to speed with what has been published since my book on the Roanoke ventures, The Head in Edward…

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The Crown Prince of Mar-A-Lago and Pocahontas’s People

The Crown Prince of Mar-A-Lago and Pocahontas’s People

I am teaching this semester a freshman writing seminar called “The Lost Colony.”  The students are reading an e-book version of David Beers Quinn’s The Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590, which is now available from Routledge, and a copy of my book, The Head in Edward Nugent’s Hand.   For the first week of class I wanted the students to recognize the extent to which our understandings of the Roanoke ventures, and of early European expansion generally, are encrusted with a deep…

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Talking About Christianity and Native American Communities

Talking About Christianity and Native American Communities

I was raised in a Catholic household by parents who are now Unitarians.  I was never confirmed, was withdrawn by my parents from Our Lady of Assumption school after I finished sixth grade, and long ago left the church.  There is nothing that I can accept as true in the Apostles’ Creed I was expected to memorize as a child. I write this to let you know where I am coming from when I tell you I am nonetheless sometimes…

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It’s Finals Week!

It’s Finals Week!

Your final exam in Western Humanities, people.  Please discuss quietly in your groups.   Choose one of the following two options as the basis for your essay:   1).  Read closely and thoughtfully Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” A copy is available on the class Canvas Page in the “Martin Luther King” folder.  I would like you to read the letter very carefully and think seriously about it.   You will see from King’s letter that he…

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New York Historians and the State’s Freedom of Information Law–The Time to Act is Now

New York Historians and the State’s Freedom of Information Law–The Time to Act is Now

This morning’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle included an editorial that should be of interest to all historians working in New York state and all historians anywhere interested in New York history.  According to the D&C editorial board, the bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) to strengthen New York’s FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) is a significant piece of legislation that is worthy of support. The bill has passed both the State Assembly and the Senate, has bipartisan support, and…

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Historians and the Problem of Evil

Historians and the Problem of Evil

Elzbieta Plackowska, forty-five years old, was convicted late in September for murdering her seven-year old son Justin and a five-year old girl, Olivia Dworakowski, who she was babysitting.  The crime occurred more than five years ago, on 30 October 2012. After telling the children to get down on their knees to pray, she started after them with a pair of kitchen knives. She stabbed Justin more than one hundred times, then slashed his throat. Olivia she stabbed more than fifty…

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