Author Archives: michaeljdouma

How many “reads” does a typical academic article get?

I frequently hear that academic scholarship is less important than writing for the public because only two reviewers and the author ever read the typical academic article. Certain articles in pay-to-play journals probably are subject to that criticism. And articles in very niche journals might also be poorly read. But if you are writing for […]

Should an academic agree to write an article for an encyclopedia?

When evaluating a CV, an encyclopedia article should count as negative one publication. (This doesn’t apply of course for something like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). My reasons: (1) No one reads encyclopedias anymore. (2) The editors of encyclopedias are usually washed up Associate Professors who don’t publish peer-reviewed materials any more, or who never […]

Ghost Tallies in the Census

In my previous post I explained that historians have overcounted slaves in the New York census of 1830. Instead of the traditional count of 75 or 76, I estimated that there were in fact only between 38 and 51 slaves actually tallied on the census forms. One reason for the latter-day counting error, evident in […]

Complications in the New York slave count after 1827 (census of 1830)

Gradual emancipation of slaves in New York began with a law of 1799, which freed the children of slave mothers at 28 year if a male child and 25 years if a female child. These children of slaves were not legally slaves, but were free persons, bound for a certain number of years to the […]

The case of the really old slave

In my research on American slavery, I’ve come across frequent references to slaves and freed blacks of extraordinary age. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that many people did not know in which year they were born. Census takers engaged in “statistical heaping” when old people estimated there age at “about 100”. […]

Schenectady Hatmaker, 1763

A page of an account book of a 1760s hatmaker in Schenectady, New York (fom the Winterthur Library, Delaware). A bunch of Dutch people ordering beaver hats for their big heads. In the 1760s, many people in Schenectady still spoke Dutch and even “wrote English with a Dutch accent” as it were.

The JFK Hat Thesis Lives on

The idea that American men stopped wearing hats because they followed the example of their fearless leader, John F. Kennedy, is one of those historical myths that is almost certainly wrong but seldom challenged. In an article in Insider Higher Ed, Matt Reed asks “Will the pandemic do to ties what JFK did to hats?” […]

Croquet History

Some images from the county histories of western New York from the 1870s.

A 19th Century Waldo

Browsing through those 1870s county histories for New York and I discovered this guy, a kind of 19th century Waldo, was a frequent stand-in for the artist. Some amazing sketch work in these volumes by the way.

Foreign Soldiers in the U.S. Civil War (Dutch, German, Danish, English, etc)

Last year, I and my two co-authors Anders Rasmussen and Robert Faith published an article (in the well-regarded Journal of American Ethnic History) about foreign-born men who were forced against their will into the Union army during the American Civil War. In 1862-1863, at the peak of “impressment” claims, over one thousand men complained that […]