Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jonathan Edwards in American History

Assignment for Thursday, August 30: To complement our discussion of Puritanism on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, we will focus on the life of Jonathan Edwards, a notable minister from western Massachusetts (b. 1703, d. 1758). Edwards is the subject of considerable controversy, interest, and fascination. I've studied him since 1998 and have read most of what he wrote, including many of his sermons--even some in 18th century manuscript form.

While a mere day does not do justice to the complexity of Edwards, I'd like us to examine some of his accessible key works to prepare for discussion. You must complete a primary document analsyis form for each document (3 total).

By Wednesday evening if not before, introduce yourself to JE by reading a short biography of JE here.

Document 1: Read the first 5 pages or so of the Resolutions

Document 2: Read the first 5 or 6 pages of the Personal Narrative

Document 3: Juniors, read a few pages of Distinguising Marks (after reading the intro read of few sections of DM here), and sophomores read a few pages of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

You have plenty of time to read before Thursday; come prepared with analysis forms complete.

[Thanks to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale for providing JE resources.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Prayer in Schools

Writer and thinker W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), pictured here late in life in Accra, Ghana, wrote prayers for his students while teaching at Altanta University during the early years of the twentieth century. His spiritual meditations, I hope, will offer inspiration for the coming academic year.

The prayers below comes from a slender volume titled Prayers for Dark People, a collection of Du Bois's spiritual petitions published in 1980 and edited by scholar Herbert Aptheker.

"Let us remember, O God, that our religion in life is expressed in our work, and therefore in this school [Atlanta University] it is shown in the way we conquer our studies—not entirely in our marks but in the honesty of our endeavour, the thoroughness of our accomplishment and the singleness and purity of our purpose. In school life there is but one unforgivable sin and that is to know how to study and to be able to study, and then to waste and throw away God’s time and opportunity. From this blasphemy deliver us all, O God. Amen” (p. 33).

"God bless all schools and forward the great work of education for which we stand. Arouse within us and within our land a deep realization of the seriousness of our problem of training children. On them rests the future work and throught and sentiment and goodness of the world. If here and elsewhere we train the lazy and shallow, the self-indulgent and the frivolous--if we destroy reason and religion and do not rebuild, help us, O God, to realize how heavy is our responsibility and how great the cost. The school of today is the world of tomorrow and today and tomorrow are Thine, O God. Amen (I Samuel 16:6-12)" (p. 53).

Best wishes for a productive and successful semester and year!

[Photo from UMass-Amherst Digital Archive.]

History On-line

English professor Thomas Benton discusses on-line primary source material in the Chronicle of Higher Education here, and has some interesting thoughts on teacher/professor learning. (HT: UH Library History Blog)

The Winds of Time

The pun in the title of this post is not meant to make light of storms and the destruction they sometimes havoc, but to draw attention to the historical study of Caribbean storms. I thought this might be of interest with all of the news about Hurricane Dean in the Gulf of Mexico.

While I'm sure I'm leaving important titles out, one of the most interesting studies is Matthew Mulcahy's interesting book Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). Read a review of the book here.

According to his website, Mulcahy is now working on a study of the 1692 earthquake in Jamaica. Much more was going on in the greater Atlantic world this year than witch hunts (perhaps not the one you are thinking of) and other assorted happenings. Should make for interesting discussion.

Other topics of discussion for storms and their impact are found here (Katrina and society), here (Katrina and religion), and here (Katrina and culture).

Friday, August 17, 2007

U.S. History in a Global Perspective

Prof. Thomas Bender's book A Nation Among Nations: The United States in World History intelligently and helpfully discusses U.S. history from a broad perspective. I got to hear Bender give one of the plenary addresses at the 2006 World History Association Conference in Long Beach. Bender's perspective is worthy of discussion and necessary in classroom application. Feel free to share opinions and ideas on his work.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book come from the Introduction.

1. "If historians want to educate students and the public as true citizens, they must think more profoundly about the way they frame national histories…in ways that reveal commonalities and interconnections..."

2. "If we begin to think about American history as a local instance of a general history, as one history among others, not only will historical knowledge be improved, but the cultural foundations of a needed cosmopolitanism will be enhanced.”