Author Archives: michaeljdouma

Book Review: Marcus Collins and Peter N. Stearns, Why Study History? (London Publishing Partnership)

University history class enrollments are down nationwide and fewer students are majoring in history. Now is the time for a book to come along to save history departments, or at least to provide good arguments for students to major in history so that history departments can flourish again. This book, directed at undergraduate students who […]

Book Review: David Kaiser, A Life in History (Mount Greylock Books, 2019)

David Kaiser,  A Life in History (Mount Greylock Books, 2019) This autobiography is organized around a central question that preoccupies the author’s life: “Why could I not get tenure in a history department at an elite university?”  The answer, Kaiser suggests, is two-fold. First, generational conflict between the Silent Generation and his own Boomer Generation […]

Book Review: William Caferro, Teaching History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020)

This book might be categorized as a memoir or more precisely a set of reflections about teaching history. It is only secondarily a guide or how-to book about teaching history. Caferro has been teaching history at the university-level for 35 years. He graduated from Yale, began his career as an adjunct teacher, taught for a […]

Runaway Slaves and “Country Marks”

Earlier today, a facebook friend asked me if I was knowledgeable about the history of runaway slaves. Of course, I said, that’s a topic I’ve been working on for about two years now. Ok, then, they asked further, what was in the meaning of the term “country marks” found in some runaway slave advertisements? I […]

Review of Richard Bell, Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home (Simon & Schuster, 2019)

In the summer of 1825, five free black boys were kidnapped in Philadelphia and sold as slaves in the South. Each had been lured to a ship at the harbor with promises of good pay to help unload fruit. The con man they followed was an African American, John Purnell, who earned high wages working […]

Metal detecting and material culture

When I was much younger, I interned for 4 months at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It was about that time when I discovered “material culture” as a field of study. As a historian raised on a steady diet of old papers, I couldn’t make much sense out of material culture. It seemed to me […]

A Self-Lynching Slave or a lesson in textual criticism?

A peer-reviewer suggests I consult a certain digital history website. The website no longer exists. God damn digital humanities. Anyway, looking further at the guy who supposedly built a great website in 2018, I find this text from 1767 and an attempt at explaining it: Is he serious? Is this actually his interpretation (below) of […]

A Forgotten Genre of Photography: The Family in Front of the House in late 19th century U.S.

Get the kids, the horses, the cats and dogs, buggies, tractors, and a painting of grandpa. The photographer is here, and it’s time to gather in front of the house for a family picture. I first encountered this genre of photograph when I was doing research for my first book, Veneklasen Brick, in 2004.  In […]

An Almanac from Dutch New York

The year was 1759 and the English had just defeated the French on the plains of Abraham in the major battle of the French and Indian War. By the end of the year, an enterprising printer in New York City, James Parker, continued a tradition of publishing an almanac in Dutch for the New York […]

Dutch Bibles and Beaver Hats in 18th century NY Wills

From the takeover of New Netherland in 1664, through to the 1820s, New York collected inventories of the material possessions of the deceased. The records, now available for free on Ancestry.com, (search for “Estate Inventories and Accounts, 16661-822”) are far from complete, but might be useful to historians and genealogists. I’ve been using them, for […]