Research seminars--conversations with one or more presenters that usually focus on a precirculated paper--take place between late September and early May. Programs are offered in five different series: the Boston Area Early American History Seminar, the Boston Environmental History Seminar, the Boston Immigration and Urban History Seminar, the Boston Seminar on the History of Women and Gender, and the New England Biography Seminar. Learn more about each series and subscribe to receive advance copies of the papers that will be discussed.

 

RSVP required. Please email seminars@masshist.org or phone 617-646-0579.

January

Biography Seminar Writing Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom 24 January 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM RSVP required David Blight, Yale University Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice (host) Join us for a conversation with David Blight about the challenges of writing his biography of ...

Join us for a conversation with David Blight about the challenges of writing his biography of Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who became America's greatest orator of the nineteenth century. Blight, a prolific author and winner of the Bancroft Prize among other awards, has spent a career preparing himself for this biography, which has been praised as “a stunning achievement,” “brilliant and compassionate,” and “incandescent.” Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice, will host.

THIS SESSION IS NOW CLOSED!

More
Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969 29 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Victoria Cain, Northeastern University Comment: Heather Hendershot, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Uncertainty about media technology’s affective and political power plagued post-World War II ...

Uncertainty about media technology’s affective and political power plagued post-World War II efforts to expand media use in schools around the nation. Would foundations or federal agencies use screen media to strengthen participatory democracy and local control or to undermine it? Was screen media a neutral technology? This paper argues that educational technology foundered or flourished not solely on the merits of its pedagogical utility, but also as a result of changing ideas about the relationship between citizenship and pictorial screen media.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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February
Early American History Seminar Making Money in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: the Boston Mint, 1652-1686 5 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Mara Caden, MHS-NEH Fellow Comment: Penelope Ismay, Boston College In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site ...

In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site of the sole colonial mint. Based on new research in MHS collections, this papers tells the political and technological story of this mint, which furnished the colony with silver money for thirty years, and reveals the close relationship between currency and industrial development.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
Environmental History Seminar Amputated from the Land: Black Refugees from America and the Neglected Voices of Environmental History 12 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Bryon Williams, Academy at Penguin Hall Comment: John Stauffer, Harvard University This paper focuses on dictated narratives from the 1840s and ‘50s, accounts delivered by ...

This paper focuses on dictated narratives from the 1840s and ‘50s, accounts delivered by blacks who fled the U.S. to settle in the wilds of Ontario. These first-person accounts of environmental encounter and expertise are unrivaled in depth, breadth, and detail among black ecological writing of any era. New environmental histories need such accounts that not only counter dominant American environmental and political myths, but offer black-lived stories of environmental belonging and agency.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
History of Women and Gender Seminar Panel: Feminist Economics 19 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM RSVP required Location: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute Danielle L. Dumaine, University of Connecticut, and Julie R. Enszer, University of Mississippi Comment: Juliet Schor, Boston College These papers begin a conversation on the intersection of the study of the women’s liberation ...

These papers begin a conversation on the intersection of the study of the women’s liberation movement with the history of capitalism. Danielle Dumaine’s paper, “Sisterhood of Debt: Feminist Credit Unions, Community, and Women’s Liberation,” examines the role of Feminist Credit Unions in the women’s liberation movement. Julie Enszer’s paper, “‘a feminist understanding of economics based on a revolutionary set of values’: Feminist Economic Theories and Practices,” looks at the feminist organizations that created the Feminist Economic Network.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
African American History Seminar Mourning in America: Black Men in a White House 21 February 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD ...

This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD officials, and others misappropriated billions in federal monies set aside for low-income housing. Of particular interest are the intertwined stories of two African Americans: Samuel R. Pierce, Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary, and Kimi Gray, a Washington, D.C. public housing activist. In exploring these narratives, this paper aims to complicate our understanding of the “Black 1980s,” the Ronald Reagan-led White House, and democracy in post-civil rights America.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Our Own Orient: Mecca, California, and Dates 26 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Eleanor Daly Finnegan, Harvard University Comment: Laura Barraclough, Yale University Residents changed the name of Walters, California to Mecca in 1904. They were trying to use the ...

Residents changed the name of Walters, California to Mecca in 1904. They were trying to use the exoticism of the Middle East to sell dates. This paper will focus on Mecca, California and the Indio Date Festival, looking at the complicated ways in which Orientalism has changed in the United States, its relationship to consumerism, and the economic connections made to the Middle East.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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March
Early American History Seminar Parson Weems: Maker and Remaker 5 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge ...

This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
Environmental History Seminar Biological Exchange in the Pacific World in the Age of Industrial Sugarcane Plantations 12 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Lawrence Kessler, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Comment: Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the ...

This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the Pacific World. This new biological exchange served the political and economic interests of the plantation owners and their allies. Planters, however, were unable to control the biological exchange processes they created. This paper thus argues that through the creation of new patterns of biological exchange, sugarcane plantations induced ecological changes throughout the Pacific World.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
Biography Seminar Reckless Youth: Three Writers on their Youthful (Biographical) Passions 21 March 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM John Kaag, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Abigail Santamaria; Holly Van Leuven Moderator: Megan Marshall, Emerson College Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing ...

Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing at a young age? And what does a “youthful passion” for a biographical subject mean to a writer in retrospect? We’ve borrowed the title of Nigel Hamilton’s vivid narrative of JFK’s early years for this panel which features Holly Van Leuven, Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow; Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis; and John Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, three writers who started in on their respective books in college or soon after—with the exception of Kaag, who looks back on his student infatuation from the perspective of a thirty-something father. Megan Marshall, whose Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast tells the life of her poetry professor, moderates.

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Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Panel: Carceral Culture 26 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Melanie D. Newport, University of Connecticut—Hartford, and Morgan Jane Shahan, Johns Hopkins University Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, ...

This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, “‘Making Good’: On Parole in Early 20th Century Illinois,” traces the experience of ex-prisoners, and exposes the negotiations between employers, voluntary organizations, prisons, and parolees. Melanie Newport’s chapter, “‘I’m Afraid of Cook County Jail’: Making Space for Women in Chicago’s Jails,” addresses how women both inside and outside Cook County jail contested the plan to double the jail’s capacity in the 1970s.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
April
Early American History Seminar Naming Plantations in the 17th-Century English Atlantic 2 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Paul Musselwhite, Dartmouth College Comment: Cynthia Van Zandt, University of New Hampshire The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, ...

The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, public process intended to serve the interests of god and the commonwealth. How and why did this civic language become transformed into a place for the private pursuit of agricultural wealth? This paper uncovers the ways ordinary men and women grappled with the definition of plantation by systematically investigating the names they gave to the places they termed “plantations.”

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
Environmental History Seminar Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice in Boston 9 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Michael Brennan, University of Maine Comment: Daniel Faber, Northeastern University When environmental justice became a widely understood framework for action in the 1990s, the core ...

When environmental justice became a widely understood framework for action in the 1990s, the core tenets of owning land, developing the built environment, and sustaining existing social institutions had long been a practice for Boston’s minorities. To this end, members of Roxbury’s Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) worked to create an urban village in Dudley Square. The story of the DSNI demonstrates the utility of examining a topic in both a social and environmental sense.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
History of Women and Gender Seminar The Long 19th Amendment 16 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM RSVP required Location: Massachusetts Historical Society Corinne Field, University of Virginia, and Katherine Turk, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Moderator: Susan Ware, Schlesinger Library With popular and scholarly attention focusing on the August 2020 centennial of the ratification of ...

With popular and scholarly attention focusing on the August 2020 centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, this session will explore "the long Nineteenth Amendment" stretching from the woman’s suffrage movement to second-wave feminism and beyond, with an eye toward continuities, challenges, and unfinished business.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
African American History Seminar Historians and Ethics: The Case of Anne Moody 18 April 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Francoise Hamlin, Brown University Comment: Chad Williams, Brandeis University In the process of conducting research for her book project, Hamlin encountered an ethical conundrum ...

In the process of conducting research for her book project, Hamlin encountered an ethical conundrum regarding the papers of Anne Moody, author of the iconic autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi. This paper explores this case in depth and probes how historians should record the lives of those who might not have wanted to be found.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

More
More events
Biography Seminar Writing Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
24 January 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM David Blight, Yale University Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice (host)

Join us for a conversation with David Blight about the challenges of writing his biography of Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who became America's greatest orator of the nineteenth century. Blight, a prolific author and winner of the Bancroft Prize among other awards, has spent a career preparing himself for this biography, which has been praised as “a stunning achievement,” “brilliant and compassionate,” and “incandescent.” Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice, will host.

THIS SESSION IS NOW CLOSED!

close
Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
29 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Victoria Cain, Northeastern University Comment: Heather Hendershot, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Uncertainty about media technology’s affective and political power plagued post-World War II efforts to expand media use in schools around the nation. Would foundations or federal agencies use screen media to strengthen participatory democracy and local control or to undermine it? Was screen media a neutral technology? This paper argues that educational technology foundered or flourished not solely on the merits of its pedagogical utility, but also as a result of changing ideas about the relationship between citizenship and pictorial screen media.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Making Money in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: the Boston Mint, 1652-1686 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
5 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Mara Caden, MHS-NEH Fellow Comment: Penelope Ismay, Boston College

In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site of the sole colonial mint. Based on new research in MHS collections, this papers tells the political and technological story of this mint, which furnished the colony with silver money for thirty years, and reveals the close relationship between currency and industrial development.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Environmental History Seminar Amputated from the Land: Black Refugees from America and the Neglected Voices of Environmental History Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
12 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Bryon Williams, Academy at Penguin Hall Comment: John Stauffer, Harvard University

This paper focuses on dictated narratives from the 1840s and ‘50s, accounts delivered by blacks who fled the U.S. to settle in the wilds of Ontario. These first-person accounts of environmental encounter and expertise are unrivaled in depth, breadth, and detail among black ecological writing of any era. New environmental histories need such accounts that not only counter dominant American environmental and political myths, but offer black-lived stories of environmental belonging and agency.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
History of Women and Gender Seminar Panel: Feminist Economics Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
19 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM Location: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute Danielle L. Dumaine, University of Connecticut, and Julie R. Enszer, University of Mississippi Comment: Juliet Schor, Boston College

These papers begin a conversation on the intersection of the study of the women’s liberation movement with the history of capitalism. Danielle Dumaine’s paper, “Sisterhood of Debt: Feminist Credit Unions, Community, and Women’s Liberation,” examines the role of Feminist Credit Unions in the women’s liberation movement. Julie Enszer’s paper, “‘a feminist understanding of economics based on a revolutionary set of values’: Feminist Economic Theories and Practices,” looks at the feminist organizations that created the Feminist Economic Network.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
African American History Seminar Mourning in America: Black Men in a White House Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
21 February 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University

This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD officials, and others misappropriated billions in federal monies set aside for low-income housing. Of particular interest are the intertwined stories of two African Americans: Samuel R. Pierce, Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary, and Kimi Gray, a Washington, D.C. public housing activist. In exploring these narratives, this paper aims to complicate our understanding of the “Black 1980s,” the Ronald Reagan-led White House, and democracy in post-civil rights America.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Our Own Orient: Mecca, California, and Dates Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
26 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Eleanor Daly Finnegan, Harvard University Comment: Laura Barraclough, Yale University

Residents changed the name of Walters, California to Mecca in 1904. They were trying to use the exoticism of the Middle East to sell dates. This paper will focus on Mecca, California and the Indio Date Festival, looking at the complicated ways in which Orientalism has changed in the United States, its relationship to consumerism, and the economic connections made to the Middle East.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Parson Weems: Maker and Remaker Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
5 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University

This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Environmental History Seminar Biological Exchange in the Pacific World in the Age of Industrial Sugarcane Plantations Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
12 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Lawrence Kessler, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Comment: Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut

This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the Pacific World. This new biological exchange served the political and economic interests of the plantation owners and their allies. Planters, however, were unable to control the biological exchange processes they created. This paper thus argues that through the creation of new patterns of biological exchange, sugarcane plantations induced ecological changes throughout the Pacific World.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Biography Seminar Reckless Youth: Three Writers on their Youthful (Biographical) Passions this event is free 21 March 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM John Kaag, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Abigail Santamaria; Holly Van Leuven Moderator: Megan Marshall, Emerson College

Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing at a young age? And what does a “youthful passion” for a biographical subject mean to a writer in retrospect? We’ve borrowed the title of Nigel Hamilton’s vivid narrative of JFK’s early years for this panel which features Holly Van Leuven, Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow; Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis; and John Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, three writers who started in on their respective books in college or soon after—with the exception of Kaag, who looks back on his student infatuation from the perspective of a thirty-something father. Megan Marshall, whose Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast tells the life of her poetry professor, moderates.

close
Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Panel: Carceral Culture Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
26 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Melanie D. Newport, University of Connecticut—Hartford, and Morgan Jane Shahan, Johns Hopkins University Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University

This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, “‘Making Good’: On Parole in Early 20th Century Illinois,” traces the experience of ex-prisoners, and exposes the negotiations between employers, voluntary organizations, prisons, and parolees. Melanie Newport’s chapter, “‘I’m Afraid of Cook County Jail’: Making Space for Women in Chicago’s Jails,” addresses how women both inside and outside Cook County jail contested the plan to double the jail’s capacity in the 1970s.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Early American History Seminar Naming Plantations in the 17th-Century English Atlantic Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
2 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Paul Musselwhite, Dartmouth College Comment: Cynthia Van Zandt, University of New Hampshire

The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, public process intended to serve the interests of god and the commonwealth. How and why did this civic language become transformed into a place for the private pursuit of agricultural wealth? This paper uncovers the ways ordinary men and women grappled with the definition of plantation by systematically investigating the names they gave to the places they termed “plantations.”

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Environmental History Seminar Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice in Boston Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
9 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Michael Brennan, University of Maine Comment: Daniel Faber, Northeastern University

When environmental justice became a widely understood framework for action in the 1990s, the core tenets of owning land, developing the built environment, and sustaining existing social institutions had long been a practice for Boston’s minorities. To this end, members of Roxbury’s Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) worked to create an urban village in Dudley Square. The story of the DSNI demonstrates the utility of examining a topic in both a social and environmental sense.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
History of Women and Gender Seminar The Long 19th Amendment Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
16 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM Location: Massachusetts Historical Society Corinne Field, University of Virginia, and Katherine Turk, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Moderator: Susan Ware, Schlesinger Library

With popular and scholarly attention focusing on the August 2020 centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, this session will explore "the long Nineteenth Amendment" stretching from the woman’s suffrage movement to second-wave feminism and beyond, with an eye toward continuities, challenges, and unfinished business.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
African American History Seminar Historians and Ethics: The Case of Anne Moody Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
18 April 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Francoise Hamlin, Brown University Comment: Chad Williams, Brandeis University

In the process of conducting research for her book project, Hamlin encountered an ethical conundrum regarding the papers of Anne Moody, author of the iconic autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi. This paper explores this case in depth and probes how historians should record the lives of those who might not have wanted to be found.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close