It has been a while since I’ve done a concentrated study on any topic in American History. In fact, the last one was for my Colonial America class at AMU. The French and Indian War reading list and historiographic essay were the product and were early posts on this blog. Well, its been a few years, the masters is completed, and it turns out I miss that kind of directed study. So I’ve decided that this year (2018) I’ll begin a more detailed study of religion in the 13 colonies. I’ve got a decent reading list (see the link), but if any of you have any additions for me I’d love to hear them.
I was reading Catherine Brekus’ Strangers & Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America 1740-1845 as background for my thesis when I stumbled upon Jemima Wilkinson. In October 1776, after a bout of typhus, Wilkinson believed she had died, gone to heaven, and returned “sinless spirit” neither female nor male. Identifying herself as a Public Universal Friend, Wilkinson, often referred to herself in the third person and would only answer to Public Universal Friend not Jemima. Following suit, several of her inner circle also stopped calling her Jemima which evidently led to convoluted references to her in the written record.
I have found two biographies of Jemima, Herbert Wisbey, Jr’s 2009, Pioneer Prophetess, Jemima Wilkinson the Public Universal Friend and Paul Moyer’s more recent (2015), The Public Universal Friend: Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in Revolutionary America. I find this interesting enough to follow up on after I finish my thesis.
Look at that, two months to the day since my last post. Time flies when you sink knee deep in Adventist history I guess.
So 2016 started off with a new job – I still work for Colonial Williamsburg but now in the School and Groups department. The training is in-depth and lots of fun so 2016 has been excellent so far.
The thesis prods along at what seems like glacial speed sometimes. The hardest part is the waiting time between submitting parts for comment/review and getting those comments back. To avoid burnout I’ve been trying to write only on the weekends which, of course, slows the process. In addition, I’ve ignored this blog but hope to get back to writing on a regular basis.
I spent some time going through my old book marked links and rediscovered this one. It links to a 1922 article in Concrete Highway Magazine that talks bout a visit to Williamsburg by President Harding. It also provides some info on the paving of the Duke of Gloucester Street. Enjoy!
I received great news this week! A while back I submitted a paper proposal to the Virginia Forum. The Virginia Forum is an annual conference that connects Historians, Museum Professionals, Teachers, and anyone interested in Virginia history to share research and experiences. The paper I proposed, “Colonists’ Patsy or Vainglorious Opportunist? Lord Dunmore and His War.” has been accepted. The conference will be March 3-5, 2016 in my own backyard as the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation will be our host. I’ll post more information as the conference draws near. To check out the Virginia Forum visit their website here.
I had to submit a short literature review (in a sense a historiography) as part of the thesis writing process. This serves to make sure that I am keeping focused on my topic and not reading too far astray. It also shows that I have given the topic some thought and did enough background reading so that I am not flying blind. Below is a copy.
Adventist history, while important within the denomination, is not a subject much researched and written about outside of denominational circles. My thesis seeks to place the beginnings of Adventist denomination within the greater historical context of slavery and the American Civil War. Consequently, the following sources broach a wide variety of topics starting with Adventist histories and continuing on to works covering the Antebellum and Civil War periods.
George Knight who is a history professor at Andrews University, an Adventist College and Seminary, specializes in Church History. He has written several books and devotionals on the Bible but for our purposes his two series, the “Adventist Heritage Series” and other concerning Ellen White provide background for our topic. Ellen White’s World: A Fascinating Look at the Times in Which She Lived provides a brief overview of the society during Ellen White’s day. Knight has divided his topic into before the Civil War and after the Civil War periods, yet at 144 pages it is hardly a comprehensive study of the topic. Meeting Ellen White: A Fresh Look at Her Life, Writings, and Major Themes again provides a brief introduction to the topic. Starting with a short biographical sketch, Knight then outlines some of Mrs. White’s writings and overarching themes she presented to the church. Reading Ellen White: How to Understand and Apply her Writings provides the reader with the background necessary to interpret the variety of Ellen White’s writings.
A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists, the first of Knight’s Adventist Heritage Series, is an introduction to the history of the denomination. Starting with Adventism’s Millerite roots and spanning the century plus until modern times, again Knight provides a brief 156 page overview. A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs is similar to Knight’s History except that it explores the evolution of Adventist beliefs. Particularly helpful in understanding Adventism’s Millerite roots is Chapter 3 “The Millerite Theological Foundation”. Rounding out the series is Organizing to Beat the Devil: The Development of Adventist Church Structure. This short 180 page work covers the structural evolution of the church from a loose collection of believers connected through publications to a modern denomination with a strong congregational structure organized into conferences, unions, and divisions.
Knight has also written biographies of central figures in the Advent movement. William Miller and the Rise of Adventism is the most recent biography of the man who predicted Christ’s return in 1843 and then 1844. In, Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism, Knight puts forth the case that as Adventist’s first theologian and historian, he drove the movement from disappointed Millerites to Sabbatarian Adventism and the beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
George Knight is not William Miller’s only biographer. God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World by Middle Tennessee State University history professor Davil L. Rowe, puts Miller’s life in context of the times. In an age of religious ferment, Rowe argues that Miller is more mainstream than others portray him. (Knight would argue his work is more comprehensive as he takes the reader from historical Millerism to the rise of the Advent movement.)
Another leader in the Adventist church was James White. Gerald Wheeler’s biography James White: Innovator and Overcomer focuses on his contribution to the evolving Seventh-day Adventist church. More than just Ellen White’s husband, James was a man of vision and energy, but more importantly, Wheeler paints a picture of the human side of James White warts and all. Gary Land presents Uriah Smith’s contributions to Adventism in Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator. As editor of the Review and Herald and author of numerous pamphlets and books Smith was certainly a contributor to the development of SDA beliefs.
As prophetess of the Seventh-day Adventist church Ellen White has had several biographies written about her. Paul B. Ricchiuti’s 1988 Ellen: Trail and Triumph on the American Frontier, much like Wheeler’s book on James White, tries to show Ellen White as a human being. Ricchiuti is an Adventist so for him White is still a prophetess, but that does not deny her humanity. By contrast, Rene Noorbergen’s Ellen G. White: Prophet of Destiny is a gushing biography that puts Ellen White up on the pedestal that Ricchiuti argues against. Oxford University Press’ Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet, contains a series of essays on various aspects of the life of Ellen White. Though published by a university press, this book contains numerous essays by Adventist scholars. Of the eighteen essays, fifteen are written by scholars associated with the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Two volumes of Arthur L. White’s five volume biography of his grandmother provide a near first hand account of the period. Ellen White: The Early Years covers the “Great Disappointment” and beginnings of the Advent movement from 1827 to 1862. Ellen White: The Progressive Years covers the years 1862 to 1876 with the initial chapters focusing on both the Civil War and the incorporation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Several works examine America on the eve of the Millennial movement. Paul Jonson’s A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 provides insight into the changes occurring in the “burned over district” that sets the stage for religious revivals and northern reform movements. Ronald Walters’ American Reformers 1815-1860 gives shape to that American reform movement. The more recent America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election that Transformed a Nation by John Bicknell, follows the current trend in highlighting particular events in a given year. It sets the background for the beginning of my study as the “Great Disappointment” occurs in October, 1844.
Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role by Ernest Lee Tuveson examines the school of thought that sees the Unites States as chosen by God for some special mission. James Brewer Stewart’s Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery and Southern Enterprize: The Work of National Evangelical Societies in the Antebellum South by John W. Kuykendall provide background material for religion and the abolitionist movement.
Religion in conjunction with the Civil War is a subject that is just beginning to be studied. Several works provide excellent background material for my examination. C.C. Goen’s Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the Civil War addresses the role of churches in the years leading up to the Civil War. Almost as a prelude to the splitting of the nation over slavery, the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches split. A Shield and Hiding Place: The Religious Life of the Civil War Armies by Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. while focusing on the revivals and clergy in the two armies, does provide a nice overview of the state of religious thought on the eve of war, as well as sermons given related to the war.
A Visitation of God: Northern Civilians Interpret the Civil War by Sean A. Scott looks at the religious thought of the northern home front during the war. It helps provide the background against which Adventist attitudes will be measured. Also contributing to this background is George C. Rable’s God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War. Rable’s which examines religion on both sides of the conflict.
The official publications of the fledgling and then incorporated Seventh-day Adventist Church are The Midnight Cry and the Review and Herald. Ellen White’s visions for the church and the American Civil War are contained in Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1. Sermons given by non-Adventist preachers provide insight as to the attitudes and beliefs of other denominations toward the war. God the Giver of Victory and Peace: A Thanksgiving Sermon, Reverses Needed: A Discourse Delivered on the Sunday after the Disaster of Bull Run, and the article “The Victory of Manassas Plain” fall into this category.
Atkinson, Joseph M. God the Giver of Victory and Peace: A Thanksgiving Sermon.
Raliegh, NC, 1862.
Brooklyn Eagle. November 21, 1842.
Bushnell, Horace. Reverses Needed: A Discourse Delivered on the Sunday after the Disaster of Bull Run. Hartford, CT: L.E. Hunt, 1861.
Miller, William. Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, About the Year 1843. Boston: Joshua V. Himes, 1842.
“The Battle of Bull Run – Gen. McDowell’s Report,” The New York Times. August 9, 1861.
Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference Archives. The Midnight Cry.
Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference Archives. Review and Herald.
Smith, Uriah. The United States in the Light of Prophecy; or, An Exposition of Rev 13:11-17. Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, 1874.
Smyth, Thomas. “The Victory of Manassas Plain,” The Southern Presbyterian Review Vol. XIV No. 4 (January 1862).
White, Ellen G. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1948.
Aamodt, Terrie Dopp ed. Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Bicknell, John. America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election that Transformed the Nation. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2015.
Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1978.
Goen, C. C. Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denomination Schisms and the Coming of the Civil War. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1985.
Knight, George. A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1999.
__________. A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000.
__________. Ellen White’s World: A Fascinating Look at the Times in Which She Lived. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1998.
__________. Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2004.
__________. Meeting Ellen White: A Fresh Look at Her Life, Writings, and Major Themes. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996.
__________. Organizing to Beat the Devil: The Development of Adventist Church Structure. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2001.
__________. Reading Ellen White: How to Understand and Apply Her Writings. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997.
__________. William Miller and the Rise of Adventism. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2010.
Kuykendall, John W. Southern Enterprize: The Work of National Evangelical Societies in the Antebellum South. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.
Land, Gary. Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2014.
Noorbergen, Rene. Ellen G White: Prophet of Destiny. Brushton, NY: TEACH Services, Inc., 2001.
Rable, George C. God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A religious History of the American Civil War. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
Ricchiuti, Paul B. Ellen: Trial and Triumph on the American Frontier. Dodge Center, MN: The Upward Way, 1988.
Rowe, David L. God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.
Shattuck, Jr., Gardiner H. A Shield and Hiding Place: The Religious Live of the Civil War Armies. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987.
Stewart, James Brewer. Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1976.
Tuveson, Ernest Lee, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role. Chicagi, Il: The University of Chicago Press, 1968.
Walters, Ronald G. American Reformers 1815-1860. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1978.
Wheeler, Gerald. James White: Innovator and Overcomer. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2003.
White, Arthur L. Ellen G. White: The Early Years. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985.
__________. Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985.
It has been a few days since my last post so I thought I’d catch everyone up with what has been going on since I last ruminated about working on my thesis.
So far I’ve read two good books as background for my thesis America 1844 by John Bicknell is an excellent read that provides a background for where my thesis starts – with the Millerite movement and the Great Disappointment of 1844. Bicknell does a great job outlining the struggles of westward migration and outlining the year leading up to the 1844 presidential election. For my purposes I found he did an outstanding job of covering William Miller, the Great Disappointment, and the genesis of what would evolve into the Adventism.
A Visitation of God by Sean A. Scott by contrast provides an overview of Northerners view of God in relation to the Civil War. Sadly, the book does contain a pet peeve of mine. In several places throughout the book Scott refers to the ROSECRANS family. General William S. Rosecrans led the Army of the Cumberland most notably at the battles of Stones River and Chickamauga. His brother Sylvester was a Catholic Bishop. Unfortunately, in the book their name has been changed to ROSENCRANS – including in the Index. A minor peeve perhaps, but one would think that an academic press like Oxford University Press would take more care in proofing their work.
I have also discovered a new website: TheHistoryReader.com. Connected to St. Martin’s Press, TheHistoryReader.com provides articles and author interviews that span a wide variety of historical topics. Check them out if you please!
If you are Twitter follower you might have seen my tweet on Tuesday, “Working title: Everything is to be Shaken that can be Shaken: Slavery, Seventh-day Adventists, and the Civil War….not sure, still thinking”. As I am now winding down my second Masters degree it is time to write a thesis and this is the topic I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now. The collection of books you see in the picture above is just a little bit of background material related either religion and the Civil War, or Adventist founders/Adventist movement. (And yes, you’ll note that I use the Dewey Decimal system to keep track of books that have made it into my permanent library – by the end of this project they will all probably be so marked.)
Some years ago I was interviewed for the documentary WAR IN HEAVEN, WAR ON EARTH: The Birth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church During the American Civil War which I blogged about on USHistoryfiles here. It was an excellent experience and I’ve long thought of doing a written study of the intersection of the church, slavery, and the war. This promises to be an interesting project and I am curious to see where this leads as these types of things often don’t end up where you think that they will.
As some of you may know from the “A Little About Me” section in the Fall I teach online for Southern Adventist University. Honestly, I do miss classroom teaching and hope to get back into one someday, but I still do find teaching online rewarding and it has given me experiences that I believe have made me a better teacher. But I digress….
Since learning styles are different I try (both online and in the classroom) to use a variety of methods to present the material. One thing that I did when in the classroom was to begin each class session with a video. Sometimes they were serious, sometimes comical, sometimes downright full of errors but I found it a great way to start the class. The class I taught was after lunch and while a darkened classroom might not have seemed the wisest place for students to go to after their midday meal, it allowed for everyone to quiet themselves, students arriving late did not interrupt lecture, and the videos were short enough to prevent anyone from nodding off. The video marked an absolute beginning to the class and was directly related to the lecture. No video was outrageous, but many students were curious what video I would show next.
I also use videos in my online class. This week as we begin the semester I have my students watch a video on why history is important (actually we watch two videos and read an essay). Here is the one assigned to my students for this week.
One of my colleagues at Colonial Williamsburg has started a new endeavor he is calling the 35/15 Photo Project. While he introduces the project better here, in a nutshell he is reshooting images of Colonial Williamsburg taken in 1935 today in 2015 (hence the 35/15). Personally I am interested in the evolution of the physical landscape of historical places over time. However, most of my experience is with Civil War battlefields (I think of William Frassanito’s Gettysburg Then & Now: Touring the Battlefield with Old Photos or Roger Linton’s Chickamauga: A Battlefield History in Images), so I was excited to hear about AJ’s project. So I encourage you to check out AJ’s blog http://historyscout.blogspot.com/ and learn more about his project from the photographer/historian himself.
Some time ago I posted a short post on the historiographic essay and an annotated bibliography I was working on for the essay. This was a project I was working on for class and now the class is over and a few weeks have gone by, I thought I’d post the final paper. What you see below is an historiographic essay looking at the Seven Years’ War in America. (Minus footnotes because they didn’t transfer – WordPress as good as it is frustrates me sometimes.)
Great War for Empire, The Seven Years’ War in America, or The French and Indian War, whatever one calls the conflict between Great Britain and France that began in 1754 and ended in 1763 there is no doubt that the war played a major role in the development of the North American continent. Just as historians have defined the beginning and the end differently and have chosen to call it by different names, the meaning of the war has been interpreted differently depending upon the historians’ point of view. This paper seeks to examine how the war has been studied and interpreted and how its meaning has changed as the study of American history has evolved through the years.
George Bancroft is an early historian to recognize the connection of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. In his History of the United States, written in twelve volumes between 1834 and 1882, the war was seen in terms of Protestant England versus Catholic France. Bancroft was from New England and in the true Romantic spirit saw the development of the United States as part of an overall plan originated by Divine Providence (God). His writings have strong nationalistic overtones painting a picture of American’s “intense love of liberty”.
As a counter balance, historian Richard Hildreth wrote a more analytical or “scientific” interpretation of American history. His History of the United States of America (1849) had no reference to “divinely ordained progress” but saw the United States as a collection of groups all following their own interests. At the time of Hildreth’s writings the study of American History had yet to enter into the “age of realism” so his interpretation was not well received.
Other narrative historians from the period engaged in what some have called, “history as drama”. Francis Parkman’s, Montcalm and Wolf: The French and Indian War (1884) depicts the war with Catholic France representing absolutism and Protestant England standing for liberty. Parkman (so C. Vann Woodward tells us in his introduction), “sought by creative imagination to bring the past to life” so Montcalm and Wolfe is filled with “lush descriptions of wilderness scenery”. Heroes, villains, and savages fill the pages as Parkman certainly sees the war as, “a conflict between the forces of light and the forces of darkness”.
Lawrence Henry Gipson, a leader in the “imperial school” where American History was studied through the lens of the British Empire, is best known for his fifteen volume The British Empire before the American Revolution. Two volumes are subtitled “The Great War for Empire: The Years of Defeat, 1754-1757” and “The Great War for Empire: The Victorious Years, 1758-1760” though he sums up his argument best in an article for Political Science Quarterly “The American Revolution as an Aftermath of the Great War for Empire, 1754-1763”. In what John Murrin called a “counterfactual” argument, Gipson certainly sees the American Revolution as an aftermath of the French and Indian War. Calling Gipson’s work “Anglophilic and Anglocentric” Fred Anderson, has criticized him for not connecting the war adequately to the American Revolution. This is interesting because, at least as Murrin claims, Gipson believes that had Canada remained French, the colonies would have remained dependent on Britain fir protection.
Moving into more modern interpretations of the French and Indian War, Francis Jennings is one of the first to examine the role of Native Americans during the war. In Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America (1988) Jennings writes that he is writing a “correction” of the record as historians in the past have “botched” the story of the war. The main thrust of Jennings argument though, is that the colonists resistance to Britain that became the American Revolution can be seen during the Seven Years War and not after as some argued.
Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, published in 2000, is probably the most authoritative one volume current work on the war. Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Anderson emphasizes the Seven Years’ War as “decisive” in American history. He argues that changes within the British Empire brought about by the war led directly to the American Revolution. Over 700 pages, Anderson takes the book beyond the war’s traditional end in 1763. Rather, he follows events in the colonies up to 1766, concluding the book with the repeal of the Stamp Act. Anderson has written or edited several books on the Seven Years’ War including The War that Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War a companion book to the PBS documentary.
Anderson has also written, “Why Did Colonial New Englanders Make Bad Soldiers? Contractual Principles and Military Conduct during the Seven Year’s War” in which he examines the importance of “contractual principles” in combating “unwarranted pretension of superiors”. Anderson agues that this is reflective of how colonists felt toward authority, especially the authority of the crown. This eventually led to the British believing that Americans would not make good soldiers while putting American colonists under arms giving them military experience but also exposing them to imperial authority. In A People’s Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years’ War (1984), he further contrasts British regulars and Massachusetts volunteers stipulating that the colonists recognized that a growing difference had occurred between colony and mother country. He also argues that the shared experiences would help unite the colonists when later protests broke out against British treatment on the eve of the American Revolution.
In studying aspects of the war, Ian Steele has called the massacre at Fort William Henry “powerful in American folk memory”. His study Betrayals: Fort William Henry & the “Massacre” (1990) focuses on Fort William Henry recognizing the actions and motives of the British, French, and Indians. Unlike Parkman’s natives, Steele’s are presented as whole peoples with thoughts and actions inherent to themselves, not reactionary caricatures. Ben Hughes followed in Steele’s footsteps with his 2011 study The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier. Hughes also focuses on three parties involved however his distinctions are Europeans, Indians, and American colonists, with an examination of the motivations of each.
James Titus in The Old Dominion at War: Society, Politics, and Warfare in Late Colonial Virginia (1991) argues that while Virginians may have been involved in the beginning of the French and Indian War, the attitudes of the Virginia ruling elite and attempts to draft the “lesser sorts” into the armies, combined with the resistance of the “lesser sorts” led to a reordering of Virginia society which made the American Revolution much more likely.
Few American historians have examined the French side of the Seven Years’ War. Frank Brecher in Losing a Continent: France’s North American Policy, 1753-1763 (1998), credits France’s loss to Louis XV’s largely “hands off” policy allowing Madame Pompadour to develop a “hands on” involvement in governmental affairs. Brecher too seems to see the war as a prelude to the American Revolution, however, he challenges the myth that it was Benjamin Franklin’s diplomatic skills that brought the French into the American Revolution on the side of the colonies. He claims that France’s long-term strategy at the end of the Seven Years War to degrade English power left the door “half open” to France’s involvement.
When it comes to interpreting the war’s effect on the backcountry, Matthew C. Ward argues that it was a transformative event for Virginia and Pennsylvania. In Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years’ War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765 (2003), he argues that there are four specific areas that the war transformed colonial life. It increased the powers of the colonial governments in Virginia and Pennsylvania, it changed the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain, it changed attitudes toward Native Americans, and finally it shaped new social structures in the backcountry of both states providing a sense of cohesion during the American Revolution not seen in the Carolinas.
Interpretation of the Seven Years’ War transformed beginning in 2004 with the start of the 250th anniversary of the war. Previous scholarship, “portrayed [the war] consistently as a military and imperial conflict”. Cultures in Conflict: The Seven Years’ War in North America (2007) takes an ethno-, cultural, and social history approach. Born out of an anniversary conference that took place on the campus of Shenandoah University, in Winchester, Virginia, Cultures is a collection of essays examining various aspects of the war. Fred Anderson’s essay “Introduction: Old Forts, New Perspectives-Thoughts on the Seven Years’ War and Its Significance” argues that the War is a significant turning point in American History leading to the Revolution. In addition, his footnotes provide a mini historiography identifying major works and their strengths and weaknesses. Paul Mapp in “British Culture and the Changing Character of the Mid-Eighteenth Century British Empire” examines Britain’s evolution from a mercantile empire to a territorial one and sees the Seven Years War as an expression of this change. Mapp admits that Britain’s effort to exercise greater control over the colonies contributed to the American Revolution but stated that discussion is better slated for a volume on the American Revolution.
“Great Power Confrontation or Clash of Cultures?: France’s War against Britain and Its Antecedents” by Jonathan R. Dull, argues that the War was not just another in the long history of conflicts between Britain and France but an expression of the difference between the political cultures between the two countries. For Dull France’s culture of war, Catholicism, and state power conflicted with England’s aggressive culture of trade, pursuit of wealth, and suspicion of the French monarchy.
Timothy J Shannon in “War, Diplomacy, and Culture: The Iroquois Experience in the Seven Years’ War” examines the response of the Iroquois to the war. He surmises that the Iroquois were so acculturated to the Anglo-American presence that a nativist movement such as the one that led to Pontiac’s War was unthinkable. Eric Hinderaker looked at the Ohio Indian experience in “Declaring Independence: The Ohio Indians and the Seven Years’ War”. Citing their lack of unity as crucial to the origins of the war, Hinderaker then related their attempt at securing independence from the Iroquois and eventually achieving unity, albeit too late to have an impact on either the French or the British empires.
“How the Seven Years’ War Turned Americans into (British) Patriots” by Woody Holton challenges the notion that the Seven Years War led automatically to the American Revolution. Indicating that one could make the case that the Seven Years’ War made the American Revolution less likely, Holton outlines the way that British Americans brimmed with imperial pride after the war and ways that counterbalanced that pride as tensions grew between Britain and the colonies.
Cultures closing essay “The Seven Years’ War in Canadian History and Memory” by Catherine Desbarats and Allan Greer is a historiography of the war from the Canadian perspective.
Alfred A. Cave’s The French and Indian War (2004), part of Greenwood Guides to Historic Events, 1500-1900 series had the potential to provide a good overview of the war. Cave places the war in context providing a brief background of other colonial wars leading up to the French and Indian War, and addresses other aspects of the war updating the reader on current (to the time) scholarship. Chapters on Natives, French and Indian relations, Colonists, and Britain’s Imperial struggles provide a well rounded interpretation. However, shoddy editing and proofreading distract from the historical narrative and undermines the authority of the book.
A better overall introduction to the war is Walter R. Borneman’s The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America (2006). Borneman agrees that the French and Indian war set up the American Revolution. In writing that has a popular feel to it, Borneman highlights many of the personalities of the war including William Pitt, George Washington, Edward Braddock, and Robert Rogers. Like Cave, Borneman does a good job of placing the French and Indian War in context with other colonial wars.
Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763 (2005) by William M. Fowler, Jr. takes a more global view of the war. Fowler argues that the split between Britain and her colonies had happened years before and that the true significance of the Seven Years’ War was as a world shaping event. On the grand scale it defined the limits of the French and British empires around the world. In North America it was the beginning of the decline of the native power in the United States and Canada as the natives could no longer play the British and the French off against one another.
Stephen Brumwell, author of Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 (2002) and White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery, and Vengeance in Colonial America (2004) views the French and Indian War as certainly having had huge implications of the future of Britain’s American colonies. While part of an overall ongoing English/French struggle, Brumwell claims that, “Historians have typically viewed New France’s defeat…as a fait accompli”. Because of this the role of Britain’s soldiers, the Redcoats, have been overlooked, which is the focus of his study. He also points out that while most see the French and Indian War as a prelude to the American Revolution that also is not a “fait accompli”. At the end of the French and Indian War Americans were, “identifying more closely with Britain then ever before”. While he doesn’t go into great detail he credits British policies with “squandering” such feelings, leading to the Revolution.
If the Seven Years War was a “decisive” point in American History, Thomas E. Crocker views the Braddock campaign as a “decisive” point in the Seven Years War. In Braddock’s March: How the Man Sent to Seize a Continent Changed American History (2009), he argues that the “unknowns” assembled by Braddock would, years later, form the nucleus out of which the Continental Army would be formed. It would also be the first use of rifles and shatter the myth of invincibility of the British regulars. On the political side the “burden-sharing” between the colonies and England which would eventually lead to cost sharing (taxation) and revolution.
One of Crocker’s more controversial arguments is that the Carlyle House conference, held on April 14, 1755, precursor to the Continental Congress. Stating that the royal governors were sensitive to the same people who elected the delegates to the Continental Congress and that they were sensitive to funding Braddock’s expedition by taxing the colonists, Crocker points out that it, “framed the issues that were to rend the Anglo-American political fabric over the ensuing twenty-odd years”. While he admits that the Carlyle House Congress represented a narrower base, the elements that would lead to the American Revolution were already in place.
David Preston would agree with Crocker about the importance of Braddock’s Campaign but argues that the story so far has been told badly. In his Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (2015), Preston states that, “no study has yet fully explored French and Indian perspectives”. In addition, the British perspective, “is in need of a complete retelling, for factual errors, untested arguments, myths and outright fictions” have corrupted “modern renderings”. Preston’s footnote refers the reader to Crocker’s book.
David A. Clary’s George Washington’s First War: His Early Military Adventures (2011) recognizes the importance of the Seven Years War, but for a different reason. While Clary does see the war as the first real world war, his focus is on how Washington’s experiences sets him on the road to become a Founding Father. For Clary, understanding Washington’s experiences is key to understanding the Washington who would be commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
Historians have been telling the story of the Seven Years’ War in America since shortly after the United States was founded. While each of them may come up with slightly different conclusions virtually all agree that the war played a significant role in changing the British colonies in America. They all also to one degree or another recognize that the war played a role in the American Revolution, but as historical thought and study changed so to did historical analysis of the war. We have seen a movement from a “grand narrative” to a cultural study as well as “micro-histories” as historians examine smaller aspects / campaigns. This shows an ongoing quest to explain the process that had fundamental impacts on shaping North America.
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