Pirates, Spies and Dark Nights of the Soul: Entering the Wacky World of Early American Studies

By Edward M. Griffin, Distinguished Graduate Professor of English, University of Minnesota

A few years ago, a graduate student told me, "I'm changing fields. I'm switching to the wacky world of Early American Studies."

A few weeks earlier, I had sent her to the microfilm rooms in the University of Minnesota's library with assignments she could complete only by plunging into documents she found there in the two Early American Imprints microfiche series. Commonly called "Evans" or "Shaw-Shoemaker" after the authors of the authoritative bibliographies on which the series were created, they include more than 70,000 items—all extant material printed in the colonies and early republic from 1639 to 1819.

After many hours peering at those curious old documents and their funny typefaces, she surfaced and announced that, despite expecting a wasteland of dry and stupefyingly boring texts, she had discovered in the microfiche a nearly unexplored world of writing that she called wacky but nevertheless found oddly wonderful. Her phrase recalls a famous article about student reaction to early American studies that Daniel Williams published in "Early American Literature": "Not enough Rambo Action."

I find that if I can get students into the actual early documents, they discover that it's all Rambo Action: pirates, soldiers, spies, kings, queens, revolutions, dark nights of the soul, invasions, war and peace, politics, captures and escapes and what we too casually would call religious fanatics. I could have told her so beforehand, but she probably wouldn't have believed me.

Pirates, Spies and Dark Nights of the Soul: Entering the Wacky World of Early American Studies

Keeping Up with the Kardashians in American Newspaper Archives: Their Earliest Years

Among the individually available titles in American Newspaper Archives is the California Courier—an English-language Armenian weekly newspaper published in California since 1958. In addition to offering insight into decades of the Armenian American experience on the West Coast, its newly digitized pages include several items about the young Kardashian family—including Kourtney, Kim and Khloé—printed long before reality TV brought them widespread attention.

Keeping Up with the Kardashians in American Newspaper Archives: Their Earliest Years

Jallianwala Bagh: A Landmark in the Struggle for Freedom

In February 2013, British Prime Minster David Cameron laid a wreath in Amritsar, India, the site of a bloody crackdown by British troops against pro-independence protesters in 1919. The British attack left more than 1,000 Indian civilians dead. At the recent wreath-laying ceremony, Cameron wrote in the visitors’ book:

 

This was a deeply shameful event in British history—one that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as ‘monstrous’. We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering, we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world.

Known today as the “Amritsar Massacre,” the violent crackdown is widely viewed by historians as a key turning point towards India’s eventual independence from ruling Britain. This pivotal event is covered extensively in the native Indian and British Raj newspapers found in South Asian Newspapers, 1864-1922, a module in the digital World Newspaper Archive created in partnership between Readex and the Center for Research Libraries.

Jallianwala Bagh: A Landmark in the Struggle for Freedom

Forty Sports Champions of 1913: A Photo Montage from the Harrisburg Patriot

This newspaper page from a century ago features a complex layout of amateur and professional sports heroes, established and up-and-coming, two- and four-legged. Found among the 40 photographs are baseball legends Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Christie Mathewson as well as young golfer Francis Ouimet, the surprise winner of the 1913 U.S. Open. Women pictured include tennis players Marie Wagner and Mary Browne, golfer Gladys Ravenscroft, and Mrs. W.H. Dewar, U.S. National Fencing Champion, Women’s Foil. Other sports represented are boxing, billiards, harness racing, polo, long-distance running, and many more.

 

For more information about the Harrisburg Patriot and other American Newspaper Archives, please contact readexmarketing@readex.com.

Forty Sports Champions of 1913: A Photo Montage from the Harrisburg Patriot

Attend a Webinar on Foreign Intelligence from Publicly Available Media, 1941-1996

Readex provides digital access to the principal historical record of open-source intelligence gathered by the United States for more than half a century. Spanning Africa, Asia and the Pacific, China, Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the Soviet Union, this intelligence—obtained from publicly available media and translated into English—includes reports from radio and television broadcasts, journals and newspapers, monographs, reports and other sources. 

Readex Product Director Brett Kolcun will offer a live presentation on March 28 for librarians, faculty and students. This in-depth webinar will explore the content, features and functionality of these two Readex collections:

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports, 1941-1996

Translated broadcasts and news from every region of the world

Attend a Webinar on Foreign Intelligence from Publicly Available Media, 1941-1996

Announcing American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

A partnership between Readex and the New-York Historical Society, one of America's pre-eminent cultural institutions, has led to this announcement about the creation of a new online resource: American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922. Created from New York Historical’s vast holdings—an accumulation that began nearly two centuries ago—this unique new resource will provide students and scholars with more than 25,000 short works printed in 49 states between the Jacksonian Era and the dawn of the Jazz Age. 

Louise Mirrer, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New-York Historical Society, writes “The rich scope of the collection illuminates the life and history of the United States in a unique way, and offers outstanding new opportunities for scholarship. The partnership with Readex will make this rich resource more widely available to the public.”

Announcing American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

Back to top