J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Quick Online Visit to Williamsburg

As long as I’m talking podcasts, I must mention Colonial Williamsburg’s “Past and Present” series. I believe this is still the only podcast regularly devoted to the Revolutionary period. (If anyone knows of another, please tell me.)

These conversations are only about ten minutes, so they don’t go into great depth. But there is breadth. Most of the interviews are about life in eighteenth-century Williamsburg or notables from that time, but other podcasts delve into the challenges of running that monumental living-history museum and investigations into other periods of Virginia history. Each podcast also comes with an online transcript for review.

The first host I heard was Lloyd Dobyns, who sounds like a classic television journalist because he was one. The current host is Harmony Hunter, also a writer and editor for the Colonial Williamsburg website. Both ask the basic questions that visitors might well have.

Also available at history.org is the Colonial Williamsburg Journal. The latest issue has a disappointing article on the Boston Tea Party by the museum’s renowned and retired archeologist Ivor Noël Hume. Its recounting of North America’s tea protests of 1773-74 is incomplete and in some details inaccurate. It mentions none of the fine books devoted to the Tea Party such as Benjamin Carp’s Defiance of the Patriots, Marc Aronson’s The Real Revolution, and Benjamin Labaree’s The Boston Tea Party.

Better to look at the “New in the Collection” page, which this month features a portrait of Isaac Barré by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Barré was badly wounded in the right cheek during the Battle of Québec, and Horace Walpole said that gave him “a peculiar distortion on one side of his face, which it seems was a bullet lodged loosely in his cheek, and which gave a savage glare to one eye.” But Reynolds seems to have smoothed out Barré’s features and actually cast his other cheek into shadow.


Tyson said...

Wow these podcasts are fantastic, thanks for posting the link! Great stuff to listen to while working.

RFuller said...

I know how you feel about how the Tea Party is depicted. Whenever I pick up any given work on the American Revolution, I turn first to the segment about Lexington and Concord. If they can't get that right- and you'd be surprised how many still don't- then I can only wonder how bad the rest of the books is going to be. If it fails that test, then the book ends up on the ash-heap of my reading history.

Robert S. Paul said...

There's the Thomas Jefferson Hour, but I've only listened to a couple of podcasts, so I can't speak to its historical accuracy.

I am 99% positive that the guy playing Jefferson has a much stronger voice than the real Jefferson ever had, though.

J. L. Bell said...

Yeah, the real Jefferson was a notoriously bad public speaker. He made the State of the Union a written report, as I recall.

But we can't have our national heroes portrayed as flawed or unmanly! For the same reason, one rarely hears an actor playing Lincoln with a relatively high voice, which people of his time said made it carry well.