US History and Gerrard Winstanley

First, a little on teaching U.S. history. It is surprisingly easy. As a well worn survey course, there is a very clear path for teaching it. Despite my earlier reservations, I am enjoying teaching it. The material seems to affect the students far more deeply since it is not so far removed from them either geographically or temporally. My students have generally been stunned to learn about some of the utterly awful things that the U.S. has done and have really engaged with some of the material. I think I may have gone too far last week with a source about abandoned and murdered babies in New York. Even I had a hard time getting through that one. I haven’t seen my students since then, but I will bet that they will have a lot to say on it. I wonder if this is what it is like teaching a nation’s history in that nation. Would it be like teaching English history in England?

I am proceeding with learning about Winstanley.  He is fascinating.  I have read a good amount of secondary material on him—but there is so much that I have barely scratched the surface—and am currently working my way through Law of Freedom. There isn’t too much in the way of utopian literature from this period, but this one merits a read.

My paper is taking shape in my head.  I am planning to discuss Joachim of Fiore a little bit to see his larger historical plan.  Then I am going to show its continuing relevance in the Radical Reformation through Thomas Müntzer and one of his printers, Hans Hergot. Both have distinct Joachist leanings.  What will be useful here is to start considering the utopias laid out by Fiore, Hergot, and Winstanley. I still don’t know too much about Fiore’s other than some broad outlines, but Hergot’s and Winstanley’s show some similarities.  Most importantly, both have retained clear government despite believing that they were part of the age of the Holy Spirit in which equality and freedom would reign.  I will mostly focus on the concepts of equality and freedom presented in these works.  Winstanley is particularly fascinating because his version of freedom allowed for a totalitarian government.  Something that seems to come out of both sources is that freedom means having freedom from economic dependence.

Here are some observations that I made about Winstanley so far, most of which I have not seen others discuss, but some that I have.  Overall, I have started to view him as a version of Carlo Ginzburg’s Menocchio.  He appears to have cobbled together his philosophy from different things he has heard or read. He frequently makes use of concepts or words particularly popular in the late 1640s (like “no respecter of persons” and saluus populi, suprema lex).  I think he may have been an Arminian, or at least he was not a fan of predestination.  I’m not sure where he would have picked this up, but he may not have believed in heaven or hell.  He picked up some Baconian philosophy and appears to have some knowledge of developing reforms in natural philosophy. He was a big fan of understanding God through his “second book.”  I could probably dig up more, but I am guessing that this was the result of his haphazard education, as others like James Alsop have remarked upon, and a tendency to be, as Winstanley described, one who “keeps his thoughts to himself” while searching for answers.

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A new year

I suppose that my New Year’s resolution could be to keep up with this blog, but that seems like a sad resolution. Nonetheless, I am going to make more of an effort to update frequently, though I cannot promise that the content will be particularly scintillating.
The big news is that I have finally filed my dissertation. The degree will not be officially conferred until March, but I have gone about changing my email signatures and so on to reflect my imminent Ph.D. It is a great relief to finally be done. Filing is also what makes me think that I will be able to update this blog more often. It was difficult to justify spending time on a blog instead of writing my dissertation, but now the dissertation is over. Oh, and don’t go looking for the dissertation. No one will be able to read it for at least two years.
I am continuing as an adjunct at GGC, but this semester, in addition to a World History 1 class, I am teaching the second part of the American history survey. I have absolutely no background in American history beyond having grown up here, so prepping this class will be quite a challenge. Still, I figure that having it on the CV couldn’t hurt when looking for work. This year’s job market has been brutal. If I can’t find an academic job, I plan to pursue another line of employment. I have a family, after all.
So, to let you know what you are getting in for, if you plan to read this at all, most of my posts will be on matters relevant to my life right now. This means teaching American history, teaching in general, having a toddler, minor home repairs, and the Diggers. I submitted a proposal for a paper on the Diggers not thinking it would be accepted, and now I have to write the darned thing. So I will be looking at Gerrard Winstanley and some other examples of the Radical Reformation to look for commonalities, particularly with regard to common property, and also seeing in what ways I can tie them back to Joachim of Fiore. When I was teaching History of Christianity, 1300-1648, this summer, I was surprised how frequently Fiore’s tripartite version of history kept popping up and how similar it was to some radical groups. I don’t know if this has been done before. Like I said, I didn’t really think the paper would get accepted, or else I probably would have submitted something else. It just fit really well with the conference’s theme. At some point, I will probably start ruminating on the irony of thinking so much about teaching while studying Winstanley, who thought that the teacher-student relationship was a form of tyranny used by the powerful to control the weak. If I remember correctly, Thomas Müntzer said something very similar. Maybe I will bring him up, too. Oh, and I will have to read Ethan Shagan’s book on moderation. More on that later. Happy New Year!

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AHA, Christmas . . .

I am currently sitting in my hotel room at the AHA conference in New Orleans. My wife and infant son (who is about the cutest baby in the whole world) are not with me, unfortunately. I have been reviewing old notes and lecture plans to prepare for an interview tomorrow. Now seemed as good a time as any to reflect on my own and the more general history.
To update on me, my wife and I had a wonderful baby boy, and we have been very happy despite the assorted troubles that go with having a newborn. He is generally quite happy and sweet. My work on my dissertation has slowed considerably, but I have been making progress in recent days, and plan to finish this school year. I have been teaching world history at Georgia Gwinnett College, and next semester, in addition to GGC, I will be picking up a class at Kennesaw State University.
To any relatively new grad students out there, I have some advice. 1. Make sure that you can teach world history. All the work I have been able to get has hinged largely on my ability to teach world history. Make sure that your fourth field and possibly your third are as eclectic as possible. My fourth field is Japanese history, and I am very grateful for it. My third field is Sci. Rev., which also has opened the door to places that lack anyone who does history of science. Make sure that you can teach broadly, because most departments are small and you are much more attractive if you can do many things. Being comfortable teaching world history also means that you can say something (if only one thing) to almost any historian which won’t sound entirely stupid or made up. 2. If at all possible, get some experience teaching writing. This is not possible at all institutions, but what interviews I have had have shown me that whether or not you intend to teach writing, people like to see that there. Most historians don’t actually know how to go about teaching writing, but it is very important to us. 3. If given the opportunity to teach a class, teach something at the edge of your abilities. It is very tempting to teach your major field, but being able to prove to potential employers that you can teach all the things you say you can is very helpful. They know you can teach your primary field; it’s the others that are in doubt. 4. Oh, and this is a bit of a side thought, but make sure to pay attention in your methodology class. You would be surprised how useful that will be. 5. Take copious notes on your computer and sign up for a cloud service. Make sure that those notes and all your teaching materials are up there, too. It never hurts to have easy access to those things when away from home. I recommend sugarsync.
That was all advice (except for the last) that I have received from a variety of people over the course of my graduate career, but considering the path of my career, I think they are among the most useful pieces of advice I have received.
My fingers are crossed for tomorrow, though I know that the odds are not in my favor. It is hopefully only the first of many such opportunities.
The title of this post comes from a pamphlet from 1647 (or possibly 1646, I don’t really feel like looking it up right now). I used to see it abbreviated as “Aha! Christmas . . . ” and it was connected to the Christmas riots that followed parliament’s attempt to halt the celebration of Christmas. It does not have much to do with this post, except that it includes the words “AHA” and “Christmas,” and the latter is only relevant because it was recently Christmas. I just thought it was a funny title/abbreviation.

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Life continues

Wow, it has been half a year since my last post.  Well, life gets in the way sometimes.  It isn’t like I haven’t been doing a lot of writing anyway.  In short, my wife is pregnant and we are expecting in about a month, we bought a house about a month ago, and I have been working furiously on my dissertation to try to get as much done as possible.  It won’t be be done before the baby arrives, but I just have one chapter, an introduction, and revisions left. So there is that.

I recently (two days ago) made a rather significant discovery.  I’ll have more on that in the future, but for now I’ll just say that Mabbott made a very serious attempt to control the news industry during his career as licenser.  I would only call if half successful, but it was brilliant nonetheless.  And it really pissed off Henry Walker.

So I now have chapters 1, 2, 3, and 5 completed.  I am currently working on the chapter focusing on the Moderate and some of the other parliamentary newsbooks, looking for signs of news sharing or anything else that might be of interest.  This is somewhat worn territory, but since my interests are more specific, it will hopefully still yield something useful.  I am trying to track Mabbott’s political and career development in the period.

I will try to post something of what I’ve done for the other chapters in the next week or two.  Maybe I’ll review some of the articles I’ve read recently.  I had to do some thinking about the public sphere and its relation to my research, so that might interest somebody out there.

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The Leviathan

I will try to upload some real content soon.  In the meantime, I will leave you with two items.  One: while looking through the Lords Journal for something else, I ran across the Lords debating a writ of error between a man named Kirke and a man named Bishop.  Got a good chuckle over that.  You can find those in Aug. and Oct. 1648.  Two: this is one of my favorite woodcuts yet.  Leviathan smiles.

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Some quick images

I took a couple of screenshots of some items that made me laugh for one reason or another.  For the first, how often do you see that?  For the second, it wasn’t actually an emoticon, but wouldn’t it be great if it was?

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Drink-hards

I am fairly busy these days, so I haven’t had much time to blog much.  However, I just ran across this pamphlet, and thought it was worth sharing.  I’m not sure why I find it so funny, but the guy passed out with everyone watching just kills me.

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