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March/April 2005 · Historically Speaking 19 enees. He eventually escaped to the West in 1947 when he was seventeen years old. And after I listened to his terrible experiences for three or four hours, I remarked that he must have felt his childhood was stolen from him. "No I don't feel that at all," he said. "I've met so many people who have so-called normal childhoods, but whose lives have been completely screwed up. In my case, since 1947 I have had a wonderful life. My childhood was different from other people's childhoods, but you won't hear me say that it was somehow stolen from me. I feel no ill will of any kind toward either the Russians or the Germans." I was profoundly moved by such generosity of spirit from a person who had suffered so much. It is always about humility, about being so grateful for what we have, and also about being hugely impressed by the dignity and generosity of spirit with which many people have endured far worse things than we will ever have to. I write less and less in my books about which division went where and so on, because I really don't think that matters much unless you are writing for West Point or Sandhurst. What humans did and what happened to them is what really counts, and what really matters is trying to teach ourselves something about how previous generations have behaved that might help us to behave, if not better, at least a little less badly. The State of Early American History: A Forum NO FIELD HAS ATTRACTED MORE ATTENTION INRECENT DECADES THANEARLY AMERICAN HISTORY. BUTDOES THE outpouring ofscholarly andpopular worksignal a healthyfield? On April 30, 2004, respectedhistorian Pauline Maier offeredher views on the state ofthefield at a National Endowmentfor the Humanitiesforum. We reprint (with permissionfrom the NEH) a slightly edited version ofProfessor Maier'spaper. To generate a conversation on this important topic, we circulated herpaper to a number ofprominent early Americanists and invited them to react. Maier concludes ourforum on early American history with a rejoinder. Disjunctions in Early American History Pauline Maier My assignment is to assess "the state of the field" in colonial and Revolutionary history. I am not going to do that book by book, topic by topic. That would be tedious, and I assume you know the basic story. In the past few decades, historical research has shifted by and large from political to social and then cultural history . Some of the most dramatic additions to historical knowledge have come in the history of slavery, including the slave trade and African-American history; in women's history ; and in the study ofNative Americans. What I want to do in the brief time I have is to step back and call attention to three significant "disjunctions" that characterize the intellectual landscape with reference to early American history and, to some extent, American history in general. * * * The first is between colonial and Revolutionary history, the two periods that are our focus today. In preparation for this occasion, I attended "state of the field" sessions on the colonial and Revolutionary periods at the Organization of American Historians' meeting in Boston last March. In the second session, someone commented that the two fields seem entirely unconnected. The truth is, that's been the case for a long time. When I began teaching in the late 1960s, my course on colonial America—really colonial British America—focused in good part on the "new social history," particularly the demographic studies of communities first in New England, then the Chesapeake. In 1972 Alfred Crosby's Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 appeared, awakening widespread consciousness of the demographic catastrophe among Native Americans that followed their first encounters with Europeans and the possible connections between New World foods and population growth in other parts of the world. Already some fine studies were available on the origins ofAmerican slavery; others studied that institution from a cross-cultural perspective. To be sure, I also discussed topics such as religion and the structure of politics and political institutions in British North America. Even so, after the term break, when...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 19-22
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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