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Publications Overview


The Material and Social Practices of Intellectual Work:
Jonathan Edwards’s Study

By Wilson H. Kimnach and Kenneth P. Minkema

By examining the objects in the room(s) that comprised the study of Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century preacher, revivalist, and theologian, we can see the material world of an intellectual through the means by which he forged, preserved, and communicated ideas. We can also see the products of his labors through a new perspective, that of material and visual studies. The books he acquired, the writing implements, the homemade notebooks and hand-stitched manuscripts, and the customized furniture he utilized all helped to shape the texts Edwards left behind. He largely fabricated the environment in which he worked and the tools he employed, using technologies at his disposal in his provincial setting. An examination of a writer’s study, such as Edwards’s, does not only reveal the work habits and compositional methods by which that writer operated. A close study of the objects in the room(s), and how they changed over time, allows a reconstruction of the ways that social and material practices contributed to intellectual production.

Making an Imperial Compromise:
The Calico Acts, the Atlantic Colonies, and the Structure of the British Empire

By Jonathan P. Eacott

In 1697 weavers in London attacked the East India Company office while pirates from England and the colonies attacked Mughal shipping in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. These attacks together drove two decades of negotiations over an imperial compromise that had significant ramifications for the development of the English, and later British, empire in the Atlantic. The resulting Calico Acts of 1700 and 1721 increasingly prohibited India’s calicoes in Britain, but not in the Atlantic colonies. By 1721 the British government united behind a compromise that traded a prohibition on dyed, stained, and printed cottons in the domestic British market for a regulatory and enforcement system that granted the East India Company a monopoly over the supply of Asian goods to be reexported by private merchants to the British Atlantic colonies. The acts shifted the emphasis away from colonists as cultivators of Asian raw materials such as silk and cotton wool, and toward colonists as consumers of Asian goods. Colonists were positioned as the ultimate imperial consumers, not just of British manufactures but of Asian manufactures considered economically, politically, and morally unacceptable in Britain itself, though essential to the support of the East India Company. This precedent of using colonists to support the Company would have serious implications during the tea crisis in 1773.

The British and Indian War:
Cherokee Power and the Fate of Empire in North America

By Paul Kelton

In November 1758 British General John Forbes’s army set foot on the smoldering ground that had once been France’s Fort Duquesne and triumphantly renamed the spot Pittsburgh. Historians have of course given this major turning point in the Seven Years’ War considerable attention, but they have undervalued a set of actors that made the event possible: the Cherokees. In narratives of the global conflict, Cherokees seemingly appear in the beginning as fickle friends of the British, quickly disappear, and then reemerge in their well-known role as enemies during the Cherokee War (1759–61). Before relations between the two allies collapsed, however, the southern indigenous nation exercised its power far to the north to turn the tide of the larger imperial contest. In 1757 and 1758, Cherokees helped engineer an extensive pro-English alliance and afflicted French-allied Natives—particularly the Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo residents of the Ohio Valley—with a series of devastating raids. France’s Native allies could not withstand this British and Indian war against them, abandoned the French Empire, and came to peace. Uncovering this largely hidden yet important aspect of the Seven Years’ War adds to our understanding of how Natives indelibly shaped the imperial struggle that made America.

Sources and Interpretations

“But they differ from us in sound”:
Indian Psalmody and the Soundscape of Colonialism, 1651–75

By Glenda Goodman

Singing psalms was a vital part of Puritan worship in colonial Massachusetts and missionaries incorporated psalmody into their efforts to convert Massachusett and Nipmuck Indians to Christianity in the second half of the seventeenth century. Under the auspices of the Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, Roxbury minister John Eliot headed the Massachusetts Bay Colony missionary efforts, which included translating the Bible and metrical psalter into the Massachusett dialect. Beginning in 1651, Indian converts in so-called praying towns across the colony were taught to sing the translated psalms. Music was heavily weighted with spiritual and cultural significance for both colonists and Indians, and sacred music became a mode of cross-cultural mediation between the groups. The newly translated psalms were set to traditional English psalm tunes, exemplifying an uneasy syncretism that discomfited English listeners. Ambivalence characterized Puritans’ interpretations of Indian psalm singing, and performances of Indian psalmody were often freighted with auxiliary conflicts between colonists and local native groups. Understood in the broader framework of music in missions from New France to New Spain, sources that describe Indian psalmody from three separate performances in 1651, 1674, and 1675 shed new light on a hitherto-overlooked local musical practice and on English colonists’ responses to shifting relations with Indians in southern New England before and during King Philip’s War.

Joyful Ringing, Solemn Tolling:
Methods and Meanings of Early American Tower Bells

By Deborah Lubken

Historians writing about celebrations and protests of the colonial period and early Republic have enumerated the occasions on which tower bells sounded. They have addressed bells’ significance in the contexts of political celebrations and protests, but they have seldom considered distinctions between methods of sounding or the cues listeners relied on to interpret what they heard. A focused examination of how British Americans sounded bells and how they assigned meaning in particular circumstances clarifies the place of bells in communication networks and their roles as tools for symbolic expression. In the first capacity, ringing and tolling commanded public attention and conveyed messages, which listeners interpreted with reference to other sources of information. In the second capacity, these methods represented approval or dissent on multiple levels. A ringing bell could express the audible assent of a community’s inhabitants; the voice of organizers, indicating how listeners should think and feel; and the consent of religious and municipal authorities, who controlled access to bells and regulated their use. Although representations were sometimes contested, because bells commanded attention and represented authority, ringing and tolling lent legitimacy to both political demonstrations and accounts that circulated in print.

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