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, March 21, 2013

Rebirthing the Revolution for the 2000s

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies and nearby organizations are hosting a conference in Philadelphia from 30 May to 1 June 2013 on “The American Revolution Reborn: New Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century.” What does that mean?

The conference aims to identify new directions and new trends in scholarship on the American Revolution. The conference organizers expect that it will be the first in a series of conferences exploring important themes on the era of the American Revolution. The four themes that will guide the first conference are Global Perspectives, Power, Violence, and Civil War.

The format of the conference will differ from most academic conferences. Instead of privileging[*] papers, the conference organizers have created a program that aims to foster conversation between panelists and the audience with the hope that this dialogue will point toward the new directions in scholarship that the conference hopes to catalyze. . . . Instead of reading papers, panelists will pre-circulate short papers (10 pages). In the papers sessions, panelists will have just eight minutes to present their work, leaving the larger part of each papers session for discussion with the audience.
The organizers say, “We expect the audience to be as much a part of the conference as the panelists.” Nonetheless, the scheduled panelists are a stellar lot, including Linda Colley, Edward Countryman, Christine Heyrman, Jane Kamensky, Margaretta Lovell, Marcus Rediker, Annette Gordon-Reed, David Shields, Thomas Slaughter, Alan Taylor, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Along with the McNeil Center, the hosting organizations include the David Library of the American Revolution, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the American Philosophical Society. More information is available on the conference website.

* The use of “privilege” as a verb acting upon things instead of people confirms that this is a modern academic conference, just as the planned discussion of who was the best general shows that this weekend’s American Revolution conference in Williamsburg is not primarily designed for academics. But perhaps the two approaches can cross-pollinate.

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