Researching “Revolutionary-era American Pamphlet Literature in Context: a Documentary History, 1764-1776,” and “Recent Scholarship Exploring The Federalist, 1787-1788.
Abstract In the first project for which I seek a student or two with whom to work this summer, I’m looking for one or two collaborators to work for eight (or nine) weeks in researching the North American British Continental Colonies’ revolutionary-era pamphlet literature. This project and the book (or books) hopefully to follow will focus on the troubled imperial relationship between the continental colonists and the British Parliament while challenging widely accepted but overly hagiographic views of the historiography of this period. In the anticipated collection(s), The Revolutionary-Era American Pamphlet Literature in Historical Context, I intend to publish, with various levels of introductions and extended headnotes, 70-80 of the 231 pamphlets printed or reprinted in the colonies in the years 1764-1776. It is my hope that this volume (or volumes) will show that the most widely read and reprinted pamphlets demonstrate, in opposition to widely accepted views of the Revolutionary-era colonies, that the colonial pamphlets were predominantly responding in opposition but in kind to the British Parliament’s constitutional claims rather than advancing, as is so often claimed, a seventeenth-century English philosophical radicalism or a still more novel progressive democratic-inspired political theory. More provocatively, still, I’ll seek to show that the majority of the continental colonists between 1764 and early 1776, at least those whose records we can readily access, hoped to remain in the British Empire and to be ruled by a limited constitutional monarch while maintaining their distance from republicanism and still more democracy which were generally viewed as political pathology to be, if at all possible, avoided except when balanced by other powerful social forces and, thereby, tightly constrained.
More particularly, I’ll hope to guide the completion this summer the work of my assistants from previous summers in drafting the head notes which are to precede each of the 80 or so pamphlets to be included in the planned collection. This will entail that this summer’s researchers find difficult to uncover secondary historical and biographical materials in digital and printed formats -- i.e., materials that weren’t found by my student researchers in the past -- in completing the headnotes; that they gather additional background information on the pamphlet authors; and finally, they put this information together with that found in the past in building and editing penultimate draft headnotes from which I’ll author the final headnotes and use in writing various levels of introductions (general and sectional). Additionally, time permitting, researchers are likely to be asked to begin reading and characterizing, to the degree he or she is capable, the nature of the arguments advanced in the pamphlets under consideration. Some time, too, might be devoted to preparing the documents themselves for publication.
In a separate but closely related project, I’d like to work this summer with a student collaborator in canvassing, printing, and creating an annotated bibliography of Federalist scholarship, both in journals and books, published in the past 15 years. In both instances, almost certainly, the student’s or students’ intellectual development will be enhanced by his/her exposure to and increased familiarity with the various schools of interpretation in American revolutionary-era and early-national historiography, and by researching the particular context of each pamphlet’s publication and/or researching and annotating the recent scholarship surrounding arguably the most important political publication in American history, The Federalist.
Student QualificationsAbility to research -- online and in print -- and write about revolutionary-era and/or early-American political materials.
Number of Student Researchers2 students
Project LengthEight (or possibly nine) weeks