From the Junto: “Early America” in The Open Syllabus Project

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 9.39.43 AMThe Open Syllabus Project (@opensyllabus) has collected “over 1 million syllabi” in the hopes of determining “how often texts are taught” and “what’s taught with what.” They hope their project will provide “a promising means of exploring the history of fields, curricular change, and differences in teaching across institutions, states, and countries.” The OSP has released a beta version of their “Syllabus Explorer,” which “makes curricula visible and navigable in ways that we think can become valuable to authors, teachers, researchers, administrators, publishers, and students.” Intrigued that the project claims to have catalogued the assigned readings from 460,760 History syllabi, I went through the list to find the most assigned works of early American history.

Obviously, the first question should be: “How did you define ‘early American history?’” My answer: loosely and unscientifically. If ten early Americanists were asked to go through the list and pick out the works of “early American history,” you would most likely end up with no two lists being wholly alike. Therefore, my attempt to do this is not meant to preclude others and unavoidably reflects my own perspective. The only main criteria I set were: no textbooks and, chronologically speaking, no books that did not touch on the 17th or 18th centuries (sorry 19th-century people).

And so I went through the list of the 2,000 most assigned readings among the nearly half a million history syllabi collected by the Open Syllabus Project. While neither the OSP nor my approach to it can even be loosely described as scientific, I would hope that it might give us a broadsense of what texts are being assigned and help kick start a discussion about how the field is being represented to students. Therefore, I will offer no further commentary on the list in this post.

Without further ado, here is the short-title list of early American texts found in the top 2000 texts assigned in history courses according to The Open Syllabus Project (the number is where they rank among texts assigned among all collected history syllabi):

8. Paine, Common Sense
14. Franklin, Autobiography
23. Tocqueville, Democracy in America
32. Turner, The Frontier in American History
35. Wood, Radicalism of the American Revolution
37. Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
40. Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier”
42. Cronon, Changes in the Land
58. Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
63. Anderson, Imagined Communities
66. Declaration of Independence
69. Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877
78. Taylor, American Colonies
79. Norton, “American History” (Signs)
87. PDG Thomas, The American Revolution
91. Wood, Creation of the American Republic
100. Stansell, City of Women
111. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom
116. White, Middle Ground
132. Ellis, Founding Brothers
133. Berlin, Many Thousands Gone
196. Demos, Unredeemed Captive
206. Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia
207. Gross, Minutemen and their World
227. Wilentz, Chants Democratic
229. Greene, “The American Revolution” (AHR)
253. Brown, Good Wives
258. Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
262. Wood, Black Majority
319. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom” (JAH)
326. Gutman, Black Family
349. Davis, Problem of Slavery in Age of Revolution
357. Kerber, Women of the Republic
389. Bushman, Refinement of America
390. Middlekauf, Glorious Cause
395. Holton, Forced Founders
402. Elkins, Age of Federalism
404. Dowd, A Spirited Resistance
407. Boyer, Salem Possessed
413. Countryman, American Revolution
419. Federalist Papers
432. Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith
449. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country
456. Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America
490. McCoy, Elusive Republic
514. Elkins, Slavery
539. Anderson, Crucible of War
553. Rakove, Original Meanings
554. Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address
561. Salisbury, “Indians’ Old World” (WMQ)
586. Brooks, Captives & Cousins
592. Royster, A Revolutionary People at War
605. Blackstone’s Commentaries
616. Richter, “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience” (WMQ)
627. Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven
635. Breen, “Baubles of Britain” (P&P)
687. Bradford, “Of Plymouth Plantation”
707. Paine, Age of Reason
713. Hariot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia
716. Rodgers, “Republicanism: Career of a Concept” (JAH)
724. Young, Shoemaker and the Tea Party
725. Dayton, “Taking the Trade” (WMQ)
740. Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves
757. Maier, American Scripture
775. Ellis, American Sphinx
793. Rowson, Charlotte Temple
795. Ulrich, Good Wives
800. Axtell, Invasion Within
802. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness
808. Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes
828. Butler, Becoming America
839. Miller, The New England Mind
843. Page Smith, John Adams
845. Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom
849. Davis, Problem of Slavery in Western Culture
859. Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism
866. McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum
885. Reis, Damned Women
886. Merrell, Into the American Woods
945. Appleby, Capitalism and a New Social Order
960. Charles Adams, History of the United States
963. Berlin, “From Creole to African”
986. Demos, Entertaining Satan
988. Hawke, Everyday Life in Early America
995. Richter, Ordeal of the Longhouse
997. Breen, “Narrative of Commercial Life” (WMQ)
1002. Sources and Documents of US Constitutions
1006. Maier, From Resistance to Revolution
1015. Bailyn, Origins of American Politics
1019. Berlin, “Time, Space, and the Evolution…” (AHR)
1036. Slaughter, Whiskey Rebellion
1038. Rorabaugh, Alcoholic Republic
1039. Warner, Letters of the Republic
1042. Langley, Americas in the Age of Revolution
1056. Usner, Indians, Settlers, & Slaves
1058. Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia
1065. Davis, Slavery and Human Progress
1073. Crosby, “Virgin Soil Epidemics as Factor…” (WMQ)
1087. Breen, “Empire of Goods” (JBS)
1095. Boydston, Home and Work
1100. Merrell, “Indians’ New World” (WMQ)
1107. Bailyn, Peopling of British North America
1109. Nash, Race and Revolution
1164. McGaughy, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia
1180. Shy, People Numerous and Armed
1184. Cornell, The Other Founders
1188. Jennings, Invasion of America
1193. Akers, Abigail Adams: An American Woman
1213. Young, “Cherokee Nation” (AQ)
1219. Breen, Tobacco Culture
1234. Breen, Marketplace of Revolution
1246. Nash, Red, White, and Black
1249. Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution
1271. Merrell, Indians’ New World
1273. Davis, Inhuman Bondage
1279. Wood, American Revolution: A History
1306. Franklin, Autobiography and Other Writings
1318. Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism
1326. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the US Constitution
1347. Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts
1402. Rakove, James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic
1407. Equiano, Interesting Narrative
1421. Nash, “Hidden History of Mestizo America” (JAH)
1440. Jefferson, Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom
1464. Greene, Colonies to Nation
1477. Blackburn, Making of New World Slavery
1489. Foster, Coquette
1491. Quarles, Negro in the American Revolution
1507. Storing, What the Anti-Federalists Were For
1521. Hinderaker, Elusive Empires
1555. Cunningham, Jefferson v. Hamilton
1588. Morgan, Inventing the People
1614. Ellis, His Excellency
1651. Boorstin, Americans: The Colonial Experience
1669. Calloway, American Revolution in Indian Country
1724. Reinsch, English Common Law in the Early American Colonies
1735. Bailyn, The Idea of Atlantic History
1738. Freehling “Founding Fathers and Slavery” (AHR)
1760. Axtell, Beyond 1492
1780. Shields, Civil Tongues & Polite Letters
1880. Mackesy, War for America

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