Author Archives: michaeljdouma

Review of 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-levl 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 […]

Why its OK that you don’t remember anything you were supposed to have learned in History Class

In homage to the Routledge “Why it’s OK” Series I present: “Why its OK that you don’t remember anything you were supposed to have learned in history class.” (1) There’s a good chance that much of what you were supposed to have learned was wrong. The best-known work on this issue is of course James […]

Book Review: Karin Sitalsing, Boeroes: Een Familiegeschiedens van Witte Surinamers (2016)

In 1845, a group of some 384 poor Dutch men and women arrived in Suriname.  By year’s end, half of them had died, probably from typhus and tropical diseases. In the next few years, the survivors were joined by more migrants from Overijssel and Groningen.  Now, 7 to 9 generations later, there have been an […]