Archive for the 'captivity' Category

November 19th 2009
Guerrilla theater: talk to the hand, Romeo

Posted under art & captivity & students & weirdness

gorillatheaterCheck this out, from Flavia at Ferule and FescueOur intrepid young Shakespearean was teaching Trolius and Cressida one day last week, when

I heard the door open, slightly behind me, I didn’t look over. I was mid-sentence, and figured it was a student slipping in late.

Instead, a young man and young woman walked right into the center of the room and started performing part of the banquet scene from Romeo and Juliet.

We stopped abruptly. F()cking theatre kids, I thought. They must be advertising a production. A$$holes. But since I knew the scene, and they’d already started, I figured I’d let them finish–surely they were just going to do the shared sonnet, and would be done in another dozen lines.

But they got to the end, kissed, and kept going.  Continue Reading »


November 15th 2009
“Jackal” lifestyle very aging

Posted under American history & captivity & fluff & the body & unhappy endings

ksmI was lounging in bed drinking coffee and reading the paper this morning about Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement that several of the 9/11 masterminds would be put on trial in New York, and learned a startling new fact, courtesy of a New York Timesstory by Mark Mazzetti that was excerpted in The Denver Post:  Khalid Sheik Muhammed (“KSM” in National Security shorthand) is only 44 years old!  Yegads.  He’s younger than the President, but looks about half a generation older.  (This photo helps underscore the reasons why so many men shave their beards off when they start turning gray.)  I’m sure his attorney will want him to have a makeover before the trial and to dress him in a western-style suit–but my guess is that he’s going to stick with the full-on jihadi look.

I guess living in caves on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and/or in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a very aging lifestyle.  Continue Reading »


October 16th 2009

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & local news & weirdness

Most days, I’m perfectly happy that we keep our TV in the basement out of the way, and that it only gets the bare minimum of cable channels (local broadcast stations plus, for some odd reason, MTV 2, CMT, and Oxygen. As if!) Yesterday and today, I’m really, super-especially happy not to have a TV with the complete cable package.

(I considered posting the video clip here, but I thought that would be abetting the exploitation of the child-named-after-a-raptor who made national news yesterday. If you’re curious, you can see the video at The Daily Beast.)

I don’t care if the “balloon boy” was a hoax or not–how can anyone not see that doing interview after interview with CNN, Larry King, and the Today show (to name just a few examples!) is maybe not what children are all about? Continue Reading »


September 8th 2009
Captivity, Rape, and Concubinage, 1492-1800: sensationalizing your curriculum!

Posted under American history & captivity & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & the body & women's history


"Death of Jane McRae," John Vanderlyn, 1804

Via Inside Higher Ed, the Boston Globe says that faculty at local colleges and universities are sexing up their course titles.  So, at Boston College, “German Literature of the High Middle Ages” becomes “Knights, Castles, and Dragons,” Middlebury College’s Economics Department now offers “Economics of Sin,” and at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst one can enroll in “The Light Fantastic: Wonders of Biology Under the Microscope.”  Why the outburst of creativity this year?

“The dean’s office monitors enrollment, and humanities tend to suffer,’’ said Nicolas de Warren, philosophy professor at Wellesley College who is coteaching The Stars and the Sages: Philosophy and the Cosmos. “With such a rich offering of courses, there’s a kind of competition, and titles that speak immediately to students can make a difference.’’

Those of us who teach at large, allegedly “public” universities probably don’t have a problem with getting the butts in the seats this year–my classes remain mysteriously full of apparently attentive students, for some reason, although I’m doing everything in my power to drive them away.  But, let’s have some fun, shall we?  Continue Reading »


August 1st 2009
Seriously–I need this doll for my research.

Posted under American history & captivity & Dolls & O Canada

I’m so glad I’m not the only historian with a dolly fetish!  Clio Bluestocking, the intrepid CC instructor and scholar of Frederick Douglass and the women in his family sent in her report about what she did this summer at an NEH institute in Baltimore.  On a field trip to a  Civil War museum in Virginia, she found a Frederick Douglass action figure!  Go check it out.  She writes, “He even has a small copy of The Narrative, as well as a pissed off expression.  Notice, too, that he was on sale.  This picture was not taken in the gift shop, but in my hotel room because, yes, I bought it. (And I just realized how creepy it sounds to say that I bought a Frederick Douglass.)”  This of course connects back to my post on Thursday about Marla Miller opening her book with a discussion of Colonial Barbie, and our discussion in the comments.  Why do some dolls based on historical periods or individuals get produced, and others don’t?  Many of you noted the elite and healthy bias of the historical dolls, compared to the miserable reality of the lives of most people in the past.


Can you see your book on my shelf?

A few years ago, Dr. Mister Historiann found some Seven Years’ War era lead figurines–made by a company that mostly makes lead soldiers, I’m sure, but to their credit they also made some civilian victims of war, too–and he gave them to me for my birthday.  So here are my English captives with their co-captors, who appear to be both Iroquois and Algonquian.  (Unlikely, unless they were Catholic mission Indians, but wev.)  You’ve never seen a 30-something year old woman so excited about a birthday gift as I was that year!  Continue Reading »


May 28th 2009
No more photos from Abu Ghraib because of rape scenes?

Posted under American history & book reviews & captivity & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history


That’s what the Daily Telegraph says that Major General Antonio Taguba told them!  (Hat tip The Daily Beast.)  How utterly predictable!

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

 What–you thought that invasion and occupation were going to be easy?  Continue Reading »


February 26th 2009
Two more days left in Black History Month…

Posted under American history & captivity & jobs & race

Slave cabins, The Hermitage, Nashville, TN

Slave cabins, The Hermitage, Nashville, TN

…so perhaps this idea won’t reach you until it’s too late!

(Kidding.  I assume most readers of this blog who are American historians do African American history ever month of the year, at least in months that you teach.)

Commenter Sharon recently wired me an idea that’s absolutely brilliant: 

Your blog entry about slave sites had me thinking.  Over the last few years, I have tried to incorporate slave-related sites into my travels so I can photograph them for a course I teach called Homescapes: the material culture of everyday life in America, 1600-1860.  Some historic sites do better at interpretation than others, but I’ve yet to see one that is truly admirable. (Of course, I tend to be disappointed about the interpretation of pretty much everything at historic sites–don’t get me started about women’s history.)

In this context, I just went into Picasa (the Google photosharing app) and searched on “slave quarters.”   The results are very interesting.  Clearly, tourists make a point of photographing slave sites, and the images are pretty amazing.

I wish more tourists labeled exactly where they took the photos they post to Picasa.  I might never have to leave home again.

I thought this was such a great idea that I’d pass it along to all of my readers.  My guess is that many of you are always on the lookout for great images to show your students, something that’s more difficult for those of us who teach in earlier periods, and it’s also harder for those of us who want to show our students examples of anything other than high style architecture or material culture.  (And, by the way, doesn’t Sharon’s Homescapes course sound fascinating?  Lucky students!)  Have some others of you found Picasa already?  How is it working out for you?

Sharon’s dispatch makes me think that museum studies people and other public historians might consider surveilling Picasa and other photo sharing sites like it (yes, even the dreaded Facebook and MySpace b^ll$h!t social networking sites!) to see what aspects of house museums and historic sites people photograph.  What Sharon has found at Picasa indicates that there is significant public interest in the history of slavery, and perhaps museums and local history organizations will be inspired to offer more of it.

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January 19th 2009
Martin Luther King holiday book review: Toni Morrison’s “A Mercy”

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & captivity & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Over the holiday weekend, I finally had an opportunity to sit down and read Toni Morrison’s A Mercy.  As a colonial American women’s historian, it would have been a must-read for me anyway, but Morrison’s book surpassed my already high expectations.  I don’t know how useful my review of the book will be to non-historians, but in keeping with the spirit of the day, I’ll offer a review of the book along with some thoughts about using novels in history classes after the jump.  Spoiler alert:  continue reading only if you don’t mind learning a few key plot details! Continue Reading »


January 18th 2009
Le 18 Janvier, 1709

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & O Canada & women's history

Le 18 Janvier M. De Vaudreuil nous a donné une petite Angloise nommée Esther pour être a Nre pensionnaire elle payera sa pension sur a pied de 40 Ecus.

Translation:  “January 18th M. de Vaudreuil brought us a young English girl named Esther. She paid 40 ecus for her board.”

Today is the 300th anniversary of Esther Wheelwright’s matriculation at the Ursuline school for girls in Quebec.  She was twelve years old.  She had been taken from her natal family more than five years earlier at the age of 7 in an Abenaki raid on Wells, Maine in August of 1703.  Her admission to the school signified the loss of her Abenaki family and kin, who had adopted her, as well as her lifelong alienation from the Protestantism she was born into.  “M. Vaudreuil” refers to Madame Vaudreuil (despite the masculine-appearing title abbreviation “M.”), the wife of the Governor of New France, who enrolled her own daughter at the school later that year as well as paid the expenses for other girls who appear to have been English captives.  In the decades surrounding the turn of the century, the school served Indian, English-born, and French students alike.  Although the Marquise de Vaudreuil was an enthusiastic patron, other Quebecois in the local community also paid the fees on behalf of several English captive girls. 

Sister Marie-de-Jésus, "Arrival of the Ursulines and the Sisters of Charity in New France" (1928)

The Ursulines were a counter-reformation women’s order who are comparable to the Jesuits both in their zeal for founding New World missions and their dedication to educating young people for the preservation and spread of Roman Catholicism.  The school in Quebec taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the core of the experience was religious education.  The first day of school is a significant and usually memorable day in the lives of all children, but Esther could not have known in 1709 the role this school would play in her life.  Esther must have excelled as a student in spite of the fact that French was her third language, because she declared her intention to become a religieuse as a young teenager.  Except for a short time at the Ursuline convent school in Trois Rivieres, she remained at the convent for the rest of her life as a teacher in the first school she ever attended.  Continue Reading »


December 13th 2008
Weekend roundup: boob tube rubes and working class dudes edition

Posted under American history & captivity & class & happy endings & jobs & the body & women's history

How 'bout some coffee, friends?

Good morning, all y’all tenderfeet and dudes!  Here is a collection of some interesting news and views that Historiann roped up this morning.  I’ll be out mending fences this weekend before the next big Rocky Mountain snowstorm comes in tomorrow–pour yourself a cup of cowboy coffee to ward off the chill of that Alberta Clipper, and read on:

First of all, Judith Warner provides more evidence for the viewpoint that raising your children among the upper middle-class in these United States makes you a bad person.  (Don’t get me wrong–I admire her honesty, but it sounds like she would have been happier if she and her family had stayed in France.)

Here’s an evidence-based argument that the teevee–watching it and appearing on it–makes you stupid:  Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler says that cable TV and Washington village media politics have taken over Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC (see Wednesday’s and Friday’s edition especially.)  Sad, sad, sad.

Am I cynical about the teevee?  You bet!  Historiann has had brushes with TV documentaries:  I appeared in one historical documentary, “Captive:  the Story of Esther” on the subject of my current research.  I was interviewed several times over the course of 18 months before the shoot, and I believe that my ideas were influential with the filmmakers.  Around the same time, I was contacted by the producers of another documentary that wasn’t on my research topic.  When I told them that I had no particular insights to offer or research expertise in the topic and therefore felt that I was unqualified to appear in it, they replied, “oh, you’re very well qualified,” and went on to explain that the sole qualification for the job was basic literacy.  They wanted me merely to read a script, probably in front of a bookcase full of books to prove that I’m a “real” historian.  No, thankee!  That’s a job for a chimp–well, a chimp that reads, anyway.  The only TV gig I dream of is an appearance on C-SPAN 2:  Book TV.  Production values a-go-go, am I right?  (I love it, but it reminds me of community cable access in the 1980s.)

Memo to Tom Daschle:  Health care for all won’t happen if your plan is just giant subsidies for private, for-profit insurance companies.  Remember the $700 billion doled out to the banks this fall?  And how has that worked out for us?  Are you feeling the liquidity, my darlings?

In a related story, Susie Madrak reports on a trip to the University of Pennsylvania dental clinic, where it sounds like the student dentist needs an empathy implant.  (And she provides more evidence that upper middle-class and elite Americans are bad, bad people who seem to have forgotten a little amendment to the U.S. Constitution I like to call the No Slavery Allowed amendment.)

Finally, some good news for working women and men, also via Susie at Suburban Guerilla:  the United Food and Commercial Workers has successfully unionized the Smithfield Packing slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C.

Et vous, mes amis?  How are you planning to de-ice and warm up this weekend?

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