We’ve Been Doing History’s History

Today’s post accompanies “Freedom and the American Revolution,” episode 166 of Ben Franklin’s World and part of the Doing History 2: To the Revolution! series. You can find supplementary materials for the episode on the OI Reader app, available through iTunes or Google Play. History is a primary context for every decision we make; our understanding of the past—our own as individuals and collectively—is background, framework, presumption, and rationale. It’s not always conscious, and it’s not always exact or even correct. But it is there, informing us. It isn’t the case, either, that history is inescapable, or the past makes any specific future inevitable. Individuals and communities large and small can make change happen suddenly or deliberately. But when we recognize change, it is because we know what came before. Read More

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Histories of Hunger in the American Revolution

Today’s post accompanies “The American Revolution in North America,” episode 163 of Ben Franklin’s World and part of the Doing History 2: To the Revolution! series. You can find supplementary materials for the episode on the OI Reader app, available through iTunes or Google Play. By Rachel B. Herrmann Poor Joseph Plumb Martin. The Connecticut private had been at it again—eating something a bit iffy to deal with his hunger. This time, it was “an old ox’s liver” that Martin had procured from camp butchers before chucking it into his kettle. The more he boiled it, “the harder it grew,” he recalled, but he ate it anyway. The next morning, Martin’s stomachache drove him to the doctor, who gave him “a large dose of tartar emetic.” After taking the medicine and exercising to encourage it to do its work, Martin promptly “discharged the hard junks of liver like grapeshot from a fieldpiece.”[1] Martin ate a fair amount of offal throughout his service. He sampled “A sheep’s head which” he “begged of the butchers,” and an ox’s milt, or spleen—which also made him vomit.[2] Not all soldiers shared Martin’s predilection for what chefs today refer to fondly as “the nasty bits,” but during the Revolutionary War, British and American soldiers suffered from the curse of bad army food. Read More

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Planning a spring syllabus? Read this first

2017 was an extraordinary year for the Omohundro Institute’s burgeoning role as a podcast producer. Liz Covart, creator and host of Ben Franklin’s World, joined the OI full-time as Digital Projects Editor. While they remain based in Boston much of the year, Liz, her partner Tim, and their companion Sprocket, planted a Red Sox flag in front of… Read More

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Smuggling, the American Revolution, and the Riverine Highway

Today’s post accompanies “Smuggling and the American Revolution,” episode 161 of Ben Franklin’s World and part of the Doing History 2: To the Revolution! series. You can find supplementary materials for the episode on the OI Reader app, available through iTunes or Google Play. by Eugene R.H. Tesdahl Smuggling. We have been conditioned to resent the word and the act. Smuggling brings to mind all sorts of seedy images: Prohibition, drug mules from Mexico, arms traffickers in the Middle East, even cigarette smugglers between the US and Canada. Rarely does smuggling elicit images of the American Revolution, and yet contraband trade routes and the dynamic women and men who navigated them deeply influenced the Revolutionary War and the birth of America. Read More

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