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Looking Beyond Nantucket for the Early American Whaling Industry

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Despite the global reach of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American whalers, they operated from a small number of ports. As historian Lisa Norling writes, “nearly all of them hailed from southeastern New England.”[1] The dominance of the American whaling industry by a handful of large New England whaling ports is treated as a given by many historians, but exploring the local histories of communities in New York suggests that smaller whaling outposts outside the New England region also contributed to the early commercial development of the United States. These smaller outposts have for the most part been neglected by maritime historians, but as with the case of Hudson, New York, a closer look reveals many of the same characteristics shared with the major whaling centers in places like Massachusetts.

The Dutch settled Claverack Landing in present-day Hudson in 1662. [2] Due to its strategic geographic location, high-quality farmland, and access to the Hudson River, Claverack Landin…

News You Can Use: Leveraging Local Media to Advance Academic Research

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A good source is hard to find. Sometimes researchers have to think outside the box of archival material and search beyond the academy for the information they need. Ryan Booth did just that when he looked to local media to help fill in some blanks in his source base. Booth, a Ph.D. candidate in history working with Dr. Peter Boag, is completing a dissertation focused on the U.S. Indian Scouts from 1866-1942. When his research took him to Fort Keogh in Miles City, Montana, he reached out not only to archivists but reporters and editors to raise awareness of his work and cast a line to anyone who might be in possession of previously unseen primary sources. The result was an article published January 7, 2019 in the Billings Gazette, but working with the writers of the first draft of history is different than approaching professional academics. Booth's efforts yielded some unexpected lessons and leads well worth repeating for other scholars. Below is an email exchange between Booth a…

The Other Moon Landing of 1969

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As the New Year progresses deeper into the calendar, voracious readers across the globe will be treated to seemingly endless nostalgia for the Apollo 11 space mission, which first put human footprints on the Moon in July 1969. United States astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin made history fifty years ago when they accomplished this feat, thanks to the tireless work of hundreds of thousands of Americans throughout the aerospace industry.

What many people often forget is there was a second Moon landing in 1969, almost four months to the day after Armstrong and Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface: Apollo 12. On November 19, 1969, Charles “Pete” Conrad and Alan Bean reached the Moon and doubled down on President John F. Kennedy’s promise to achieve history before the end of the decade. In essence, the Space Race with the Soviet Union ended long before the launch of Apollo 12.

While history remembers who finished first in a race, it often overlooks—or even ignores—who f…

Why Do They Stay? Interpersonal Violence and the Battered Women’s Movement in Idaho.

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On July 5, 2018, five people were fatally shot in the state of Idaho. Three of the victims were female, allegedly killed by their male partner or spouse. Two of the deceased were suspected suicides; men who shot themselves after killing the women. In an article published in the Idaho State Journal on July 9, 2018, reporter Madeleine Coles spoke with Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen, who noted that domestic violence was a common occurrence in southeast Idaho and that his deputies had “arrested more people lately for domestic violence incidents than they have for drunk driving,” reversing a previous trend.[1] Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog pointed out that in many domestic violence cases, victims were unable to sustain themselves financially due to lack of education and/or employment, and their abusers often isolated them from friends and family, limiting their ability to leave.[2]
More than four decades ago, the battered women’s movement in the United States brought th…

That Time Babe Ruth Lost the World Series

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The 114th edition of Major League Baseball’s World Series starts on Tuesday, October 23, and the history of this event runs deep and wide through the American consciousness.

Even though it may not be as popular as the Super Bowl, the World Series brings with it more tradition and more emotional engagement. Rather than a one-day spectacle, the Series can take more than a week to finish, and that means it dominates our cultural consciousness for much more than a single, 60-minute football game on a Sunday afternoon in January.

The New York Yankees have been the Kings of October baseball, although they will not be a part of this year’s contest. All told, the Bronx Bombers have won 27 Major League Baseball championships and lost in the Series a whopping 13 times. Those are more losses in the World Series for New York than the next-best team has won (St. Louis Cardinals, 11).

No one defines the Yankees in the public eye more than the legendary George Herman Ruth, Jr. Even though he was a …

Hot Commodities: Salt, Cod, Paper, and Booze

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Writing histories of commodities has become incredibly popular within the historical profession. Mark Kurlansky is perhaps the best-known author of these types of histories—Salt, Cod, and Paper being three of his biggest successes. For academics, commodities are inextricably tied to studies of capitalism, trade, and transnationalism. But for pop history authors, the appeal lies in the money. These books can make their writers a pretty penny, but why?

Bruce Robbins, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, suggests that the general public’s interest in commodity studies lies in the exotic origins of many modern products. He writes: “It adds value to remind a European smoker, however distant from religious observance, that Mayans considered tobacco ‘to be not only a form of pleasure, but also a ritual of immense significance.’” [1]

Certainly, there are those who will score cocktail party conversation points when recounting the ancient origins of a gi…

Tastes of the Indian Ocean: Indigenous Knowledge Transfers in Colonial Singapore

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In the 1848 publication of Hugh Low’s travel book, Sarawak: Its Inhabitants and Productions, Being Notes During a Residence in that Country with His Excellency Mr. Brooke, the author recorded the growing, harvesting and production techniques of sago palms and other food by Dayak tribes in Borneo, Sarawak, and other Malay islands. Botanical collectors, such as Hugh Low, focused on sago palm production since the processed food meal was a staple in Southeast Asia and China, as well as a luxury export to Europe. Botanists focused on the minute details of processing palms to encourage European colonists to enter the trade and develop plantations in the region to displace tribal farming. By creating plantations, botanists argued that British men could organize and profit from fertile land, unlike the tribes who grew only what they needed for export. This blog post tracks this transfer of knowledge and the attempts by botanists to supplant indigenous growers with European style plantations a…