For 2026: a Five-Year Conference Series

Call for Proposals

by May 1, 2022

For 2026:  a Five-Year Conference Series

Marking the 250th Anniversary of American Independence

hosted by

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

and

William & Mary

Beginning October 28-30, 2022

Williamsburg, Virginia

In 2026 the United States of America will mark the 250th anniversary of independence. This is an unparalleled opportunity for exploring and reflecting upon the American past, the foundation of the nation, and its legacy into the present. Complex, inspiring, and often violent, this period informs our experience as Americans today. The better we understand that past, the better we are equipped to understand ourselves, address the challenges we face, and seize opportunities for the future.

Colonial Williamsburg, the Omohundro Institute, and William & Mary are joining together to host a series of five annual conferences to spotlight emerging research, connect a diverse public to scholars and research, and convene significant conversations about how and why understanding the early American past is especially meaningful today.

Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, dedicated to its mission that the future may learn from the past through its expert and distinctive events, collections, programs, and site interpretation. The Omohundro Institute is the leading hub for inquiry into early American history, broadly understood as all points in the Atlantic World between roughly 1450 and 1820, and supports and publishes the leading research into this expansive Early America. William & Mary is the top-ranked university in the nation for its early American history offerings, and a leader in integrated diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and creating opportunities for civic discourse. Together, our three institutions are committed to serving the public good through historical education and research and outreach to the community, the region, the nation, and beyond. This mission has never been more resonant, or more relevant.

The series of annual conferences leading to 2026 will build on our exceptional legacy of convening scholarly discussions, educating a broad range of learners, fostering community engagement, and connecting the public to expert historical interpretation through events and programs. Each installment will feature a broadly comparative exploration of a theme central to the era of the American Revolution; in addition, sessions exploring all aspects of Vast Early America will be welcomed on the program. The CW-OI-W&M conference series is committed to an expansive, inclusive history of early America that accounts for the diversity of people and experiences of the period. The themes of the conferences are designed to facilitate this commitment and amplify significant new knowledge about this essential period.

All five conferences will feature a four-module structure incorporating both public facing and scholarly conversations:  

  • Researcher–to-researcher panels and workshops throughout each day to allow presenters to share their work and benefit from expert peer feedback. These will include sessions on the American Revolution as well as sessions on other aspects of Vast Early America.
  • Public audience plus researcher events that will introduce diverse publics to cutting-edge research. Formats might include scholar roundtables with question-and-answer periods; scholarly presentations of familiar and understudied primary sources from the period; landmark lectures or interviews with award-winning scholars, museum professionals and leaders in this arena.
  • Site visits that introduce participants to the Commonwealth’s local and regional resources. In addition to showcasing Virginia’s centrality in the founding of our nation, we will leverage these sites to explore questions of evidence and methodology; themes of freedom, democracy and belonging; and strategies for engaging historic sites, collections, exhibitions and resources in academic and public learning and programming.
  • Workshops focused on how museums and other public history sites can incorporate new research, featuring both scholars who presented research at the conference and public history experts and practitioners.

The public audience events will be preserved and disseminated in two ways. Some events will be available simultaneously via online video. The conference series will also have a dedicated section on the AcrossAmerica1776.org website, with links to the CW and W&M web sites, with blogs, videos, podcasts, and other media forms of the conference materials for the public, scholars, teachers, and students to explore for years to come.

The OI will issue a Call for Proposals to scholars approximately a year before each conference. Proposals for scholarly sessions will be evaluated by an OI-appointed program committee. To read more about the October 28-30, 2022 conference and that Call for Proposals please refer to the bottom of this page.

A conference team comprised of OI, CW and W&M colleagues will collaborate to create a series of dynamic, public-facing events and the generative workshops that will bookend each conference. While the OI will take primary responsibility for the academic component of the conference, the broader conference team (CW, W&M, OI) will determine together the content for site visits, workshops, keynotes and other components designed to reach a broader audience. These components will incorporate major anniversaries and commemorative events related to each organization (e.g. the founding of the Brafferton School and Closing of the Bray School, the founding of the Phi Beta Kappa society, the 100th anniversary of Colonial Williamsburg, etc.).

We expect to attract at least 100 scholars presenting research and can accommodate a range of audiences in the conference schedule designed for both researchers and the public. To support the participation of early career scholars and ensure the success of the program’s ambitions, some funds will be available to offset the costs of travel for some participants and will be allocated based on need.

We expect the conference series to take place at CW venues, with some events on W&M’s campus.

October 28-30, 2022: Revolutionary Legacies

The American Revolution had political, social, and economic implications that reverberated well beyond the thirteen British colonies that came to form the United States. This conference—the first of five in the “For 2026” conference series—will feature scholarship on the immediate and longer-term legacies of those years. The program committee encourages a broad perspective, from comparative hemispheric revolutions to the changing as well as static laws of slavery, new US treaties with Native Americans and other nations, new economic structures, and much more. As we launch this conference series, the committee will seek to build a program that addresses the comprehensive significance of the American Revolution, balancing perspectives on the period of revolution itself with those that look at the roots of the era’s events and the implications of developments for the early Republic and beyond. In addition to proposals focused on revolutionary legacies, the Program Committee invites proposals for sessions and papers exploring all aspects of Vast Early America.  

Proposals for workshop and panel sessions are due HERE by April 15, 2022 May 1, 2022.  Participants who would like to be considered for a travel subvention should email us directly at oieahc@wm.edu. This information will be collected by the conference organizer only. The program committee will not consider these requests when evaluating session proposals.