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Uncommon Sense

By Catherine E. Kelly · September 27, 2022

Change and Continuity

WMQ 8 min read

by Catherine E. Kelly

Historians are notorious for sussing out the relationship between change and continuity, trying to gauge which is predominant at any given moment. In fact, both are typically in play. Certainly, that’s the case with new transitions for the OI’s staff. 

From one perspective, we have change, and an awful lot of it: my move into the Executive Director’s office led to a shuffle in the Books and Quarterly offices. Nick Popper, formerly the WMQ Book Reviews Editor, has stepped in to serve as Interim Editor of Books. Caylin Carbonell, a William & Mary PhD and a recent OI-NEH postdoctoral fellow, has joined the Quarterly staff as Interim Book Review Editor.   

But from another perspective, we have more continuity than you might think. 

Nick Popper, a historian of early modern Britain and its Empire whose research explores knowledge production and transmission, has been an indispensable member of the OI’s senior staff since he joined the Quarterly in 2017.  He is the author of Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance (2012); his most recent book The Specter of the Archive: Political Practice and the Information State in Early Modern Britain is forthcoming next year from the University of Chicago Press. In addition to his work on the journal, he has proven to be an especially astute reader of works-in-progress, playing critical roles in our colloquia and manuscript roundtables. In fact, he is one the best fast, close readers I’ve ever seen work.  Even better: he combines that skill with a vital curiosity about the past as it’s refracted in new research.  

Nick’s willingness to take over the Books program created the opportunity to bring Caylin Carbonell on board as Interim Book Review Editor. Caylin is a scholar of gender, race, and social hierarchies in early America whose postdoctoral work has been supported by the NEH, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Omohundro Institute. She is author of “Laboring Lives: Households, Dependence, and Power in Colonial New England.” As a longstanding member of the OI’s scholarly community, she has been an active, widely read, and especially astute interlocutor at in-person and virtual colloquia. Those qualities bode well for her work at the Quarterly and within the OI more generally. For just as book reviewing is central to the ongoing scholarly conversations that sustain Vast Early America, the WMQ Book Review Editors have played key roles in the OI’s intellectual life. They have participated fully in the colloquia, roundtables, and conferences that give shape to our intellectual agendas. In all these ways, Caylin represents continuity with the OI’s longstanding traditions. At the same time, her appointment also affords an opportunity to revisit those traditions, to think anew about how we can leverage our distinctive scholarly practices and our unique position within Vast Early America to provide new opportunities for exceptional early career scholars. 

Some scholars are more apt to see change over time; others are inclined to point toward continuity. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, I predict that you’ll find that the combination of change and continuity in our offices enhances the excellence and innovation that we’ve long been known for.

“I am absolutely thrilled to assume the role of Editor of Books and to begin working with the staff here at the OI and its broader community. The Book Series has long earned international renown both for producing the highest quality scholarship and for pushing chronological, geographical, and methodological boundaries of Early America. I am committed to maintaining these high standards as we shepherd the terrific projects we have on hand through to publication while also bringing in newer projects. The current state of the field of early American history is characterized by incredible dynamism and vitality, with exciting and innovative work emanating from both emerging and established scholars, and I look forward to working with them to continue the OI mission of deepening knowledge of what we think we already know and supporting projects that set the agenda for the future of the field.” —Nicholas Popper

 “I am delighted to be joining Team Quarterly as the interim book review editor. As a William & Mary PhD, former OI apprentice, and OI-NEH postdoctoral fellow, I have been with the OI from the start of my career and am pleased to step into this new role. 

In this position, I look forward to engaging with new and innovative scholarship in the field and to bringing diverse reviewers and authors into productive conversation. After witnessing in recent years the field’s expansion to embrace broader geographies and methodologies under the umbrella “Vast Early America,” I hope to follow Nick Popper’s lead in guiding the WMQ reviews on a parallel trajectory.  

As we move back into more in-person events, I’m excited to get to know many of our reviewers, authors, and readers in person, so please introduce yourself if you see me at a conference or an OI event!”—Caylin Carbonell

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