In my book, Creative Historical Thinking, I consider why people conceive of time in different shapes, and what effect this might have on how we shape chronologies, how we write and think about history, and how we communicate with each other. Spatial representations of time can be idiosyncratic, but they also have a social, collective […]

I never liked it when a math teacher told me to “show my work.”  What do you mean, “Show my work?”  “I answered the problem in my head. There is nothing to show.” Sometimes, however, showing your work as a historian can be a useful exercise, especially as a form of pedagogy. Students need to […]

Last week, I drove down to Blacksburg Virginia to give a presentation about my new book, Creative Historical Thinking. The program that invited me did a short write-up. Here are some pictures. How to date a picture by counting the stars on the flag. This one is a trick though – sometimes frugal Americans carried […]

In my previous blog post, I mistakenly pointed to a demographic disaster in Hampshire County between 1860-1870, ascribing this to the effects of the Civil War. Boy was I wrong. A wise reader pointed out that Mineral County formed out of Hampshire County in 1866. To remedy my mistaken analysis from last post, here are […]

(edit: a wise reader pointed out that Mineral County broke off from Hampshire County in the 1860s, thereby throwing off all of my data analysis here. For an update, see my next blog post)       County-level census data is available through IMPUS and the National Historical Geographic Information System.  I’ve decided to use […]

North of Albany, along New York’s border with Vermont, Washington County formed in 1772, and grew quickly in its first decades. If the census is to be trusted, there appears to have been a large migration of free African Americans into and then out of the county between 1800 and 1820. Census records note that […]

Too often I see history books with arguments of the nature:  “x also shaped y.”    They are usually written like this: “Early Virginian society was not only shaped by economics but also by gender relations” or “the American Civil War also had international impact.” I respond typically by uttering “that is not a thesis”, as […]

Conservative historians have long battled the left over the proper interpretation of the facts of history, but in arguments about the philosophy of history, conservatives have ceded the field almost entirely. At first glance, it appears that conservative historians have no philosophy of history, or that they even reject theoretical and philosophical discussions about the […]

Dutch consuls in the United States in the 19th century were unpaid. A consul was motivated by patriotism, but also accepted the position for its prestige, or the business connections it offered. That is why,  in most cases the Dutch consuls in the United States were businessmen. Consulates sometimes had a stamp, or they had […]

When the editor of the South Carolina Gazette wanted to describe the “join or die”  snake then in use in newspapers in Pennsylvania, he had to improvise because he didn’t have a printing block with the image cut on it. The result was something that would have made Lawrence Sterne happy: the use of text […]