Calling me a Luddite would be kind. I was late to computers, late to cellphones, late to Facebook. MySpace passed me by completely, and I texted for the first time this past April. Venturing into the blogosphere, as I’m told it’s called, is probably a choice I shouldn’t even consider.
Yet, I’m making a leap into the virtual unknown because I see a need. To my knowledge, no other Jacksonian (or Early Republic) historian has a professional blog devoted to the period. (If there is someone out there, let me know so I can retreat to my mountain hovel while the modern world passes me by.) This absence is disappointing, especially given the efforts made by Civil War historians, such as Kevin Levin, Vikki Bynum, and others to engage not only scholars interested in their era of research but also the general public.
The Early Republic, defined by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) as encompassing the years 1776-1861, allows us to make sense of the Civil War, but it deserves study for its own reasons. It was the era during which the United States was founded and many of its political and legal principles established. It was the era during which groups such as women, African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants found themselves marginalized and forced to fight for rights and privileges within the constraints of a republic of privileged white men. It was the childhood and adolescent years of the United States, and the growing pains showed in a multitude of ways.
I took the name of this blog from Edward Pessen’s 1969 book of the same title. As an undergraduate, one of my history professors assigned Pessen’s book, as well as Robert V. Remini’s one-volume edition of his magisterial biography of Jackson, in the university’s Jacksonian Democracy course. The choice was deliberate; as students, we would have gotten a skewed view of Jackson and the period without the counterbalancing of Pessen’s pessimism and Remini’s optimism. While I almost certainly will cover topics under the broader definition of the Early Republic, Pessen’s title has a certain brevity, flair, and familiarity to the public that made its choice easy.
I can assure you that changes will be forthcoming, so please be patient with me as I struggle with the technology. The look of the blog may appear different; almost certainly, more bells and whistles will be added. Hopefully, however, the content will be engaging and informative, whether one is an historian of the period, a casual and selective reader of blogs, as I was for several years, or simply someone who stumbles over a post that sounds interesting.