Class Readings


The readings for the class are all useful, but some are more useful than others. Because the days of the class will be packed with discussions and activities, we would like you to read or skim through the materials on this list before you come to Worcester. All of them are available in PDF form. Simply click on the hyperlink marked “PDF” at the end of each citation, and this will take you to a portable document format version of the document which you can read online, save to your own device, or print. If the reading is also freely available on the web we have provided a link to that site as well. Though there are quite a few readings, most are brief essays or selected chapters.

To help you manage the reading, we have divided the materials into three categories: CONTEXT, CORE, and SUPPLEMENTAL.

CONTEXT means that the reading has been chosen to give you some background on the historical themes of the day. We probably won’t refer to these much in class.

CORE means that the reading is related to the specific ideas, methods, or activities of the day. The CORE readings are the most important.

SUPPLEMENTAL means that the reading is something we like and recommend, but you need not read it unless you want to.


Unit I: The Colonial Media Milieu

Monday, July 27: The Colonial Media Milieu


  • Timothy Egan, “Happy Talk History,” New York Times (February 27, 2015). (PDF)
  • Stanley Kurtz, “Let’s Embrace Competition in Advanced-Placement Testing,” Washington Post (February 27, 2015). (PDF)

These two brief op-ed essays are about the politics of history in high school Advanced Placement testing. We will begin the Institute with some overview discussion of the discipline of history, including the deployment of history in the current political “culture wars.”


  • David Paul Nord, “Teleology and News: The Religious Roots of American Journalism, 1630-1730,” Journal of American History, 77 (June 1990). (PDF) Also appears in David Paul Nord, Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), chap. 1.
  • Charles E. Clark, “Early American Journalism: News and Opinion in the Popular Press,” in A History of the Book in America, vol. 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, ed. by Hugh Amory and David D. Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). (PDF)

These two articles will set up our discussion of the role of news in early American society. Nord’s piece is about 17th-century New England, before the rise of the newspaper. Clark’s chapter is mainly about the newspaper press in the decades after the first American newspaper appeared in 1704.


  • Thomas Bender, "How Historians Lost Their Public," The Chronicle Review (March 30, 2015). (PDF)
  • Samuel Moyn, “New Old Things,” The Nation (February 9, 2015). (PDF)

The Bender article is a good overview of what's been going on in the discipline in recent decades. The Moyn article is a thoughtful recent overview of the current state of history as an academic discipline. It is about philosophy and methodology as well as politics.

Tuesday, July 28: The Colonial Media Milieu, continued


  • Richard D. Brown, Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700-1865 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), chaps. 1–2. (PDF)
  • David Paul Nord, “‘Plain and Certain Facts’: Four Episodes of Public Affairs Reporting in Eighteenth-Century Boston,” Journalism History, 37 (Summer 2011). (PDF)

Brown’s chapters draw on two early American diaries to explore the circulation and uses of news in colonial New England and Virginia. Nord’s article is a snapshot of news gathering and reporting. It is mainly about print, but it is a spin-off of a broader study of news in both print and non-print forms in the 1730s, which we will draw on for class discussion and a library exercise.


Unit II: The Age of Revolution

Wednesday, July 29: Prelude to Revolution


  • Gary B. Nash, “America’s Unfinished Revolution,” Chronicle of Higher Education (July 1, 2005). (PDF)
  • Daniel Lazare, “Patriotic Bore,” Nation (Sept. 12, 2005). (PDF)

These two magazine pieces were chosen to give you a quick glimpse of current historiographical debates about the American Revolution. It’s a vast literature, too vast for this class, but one important academic writer on the subject is Gary Nash, who argues that the Revolution was genuinely radical. Lazare’s review essay is skeptical of Nash’s portrayal of the Revolution as a democratic revolution “from the bottom up.”


  • Jill Lepore, “Back Issues: The Day the Newspaper Died,” New Yorker (Jan. 26, 2009). (PDF; web)
  • Thomas C. Leonard, “News for a Revolution: The Expose in America, 1768-1773,” Journal of American History, 67 (June 1980). (PDF)
  • W.J. Rorabaugh, The Craft Apprentice: From Franklin to the Machine Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), chaps. 1 & 4. (PDF)

The Lepore and Leonard articles are about the role of newspapers in the long build-up to the break with England in 1776. In some ways, the Revolution actually began in 1765 with the Americans’ resistance to the Stamp Act, more than a decade before the Declaration of Independence. Newspapers played a key role in the political debates and agitation during this so-called “wordy revolution.” The Rorabaugh chapters, on the other hand, tell a different story. They are about the nature of apprenticeship during the era of Revolution, with the focus on the printing trade. We chose these chapters to set up our visit in the afternoon of Day 3 to a 1770s print shop in Boston. They will also introduce you to a young boy named Isaiah Thomas, who became an important patriot newspaper printer of the era and later founder of the American Antiquarian Society.


  • Andrew M. Schocket, Fighting Over the Founders: How We Remember the American Revolution (New York: New York University Press, 2015), introduction. (PDF)

Schocket’s new book is about the “cult of the founders.” The patriot leaders who fomented the Revolution and then created the United States of America have always been considered great men. But their status as political saints has never been higher than it is today, especially among conservatives. Schocket’s book is a study of cultural politics in the early 21st century as seen through the prism of historical memory, the memory of the American founding. We won’t dwell on the current “cult of the founders,” so you need turn to this book only if this is a special interest of yours.

Thursday, July 30: War and Independence


  • Caleb Crain, “Tea and Antipathy: Did Principle or Pragmatism Start the American Revolution,” New Yorker (Dec. 20 & 27, 2010) (PDF).

Crain’s essay is a review of Breen (see CORE below) and several other recent books on the Revolution in the context of popular politics.


  • T.H. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People (New York: Hill & Wang, 2011), pgs. 87-110. (PDF)
  • Ray Raphael, The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord (New York: The New Press, 2002), chap. 4. (PDF)
  • David Waldstreicher, “Rites of Rebellion, Rites of Assent: Celebrations, Print Culture, and the Origins of American Nationalism,” Journal of American History, 82 (June 1995). (PDF)
  • Thomas Starr, “Separated at Birth: Text and Context of the Declaration of Independence,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 110 (April 2000). (PDF; web)

Breen’s book is about the Revolution, not as wordy argumentation in newspapers and pamphlets, but as a popular insurgency. It is more about riots than debates. Raphael’s book includes an account of the revolutionary activities in Worcester in 1774, which we will explore in one of the morning sessions of Day 4. Waldstreicher’s and Starr’s articles are about the how the Declaration of Independence was circulated and received by ordinary Americans in the contexts of print culture. Waldstreicher shows how the Declaration was, in a sense, ratified in the popular politics of street demonstrations and rituals. Starr explores the relationship between handwritten documents and printed documents in late-18th-century American politics. We will use the circulation of the Declaration in an exercise in one of the afternoon library sessions.


Unit III: An Extensive Republic

Friday, July 31: The Postal Age


  • Richard R. John, “Expanding the Realm of Communications,” in A History of the Book in America, vol. 2: An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840, ed. by Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). (PDF)
  • David M. Henkin, The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), introduction and chaps. 1-2. (PDF)

In the early 19th century, the American post office became a vital institution of communication, especially because of the great geographical expanse of the new nation. Federal postal policy encouraged the flow of public news through its massive subsidy of newspapers, while at the same time supporting the flow of personal news through letters. Richard John is a historian of the former role of the post office; David Henkin is a historian of the latter role. Henkin will join us for the morning sessions of Day 5. In the afternoon we will visit Old Sturbridge Village, a reconstructed New England village, which includes a print shop and post office from the 1830s.

Saturday, August 1: Newspapers Everywhere


  • Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications (New York: Basic Books, 2004), chap. 5. (PDF)
  • Andie Tucher, “Newspapers and Periodicals,” in History of the Book, vol. 2: Extensive Republic, ed. by Gross and Kelley. (PDF)
  • Charles G. Steffen, “Newspapers for Free: The Economies of Newspaper Circulation in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic, 23 (Fall 2003). (PDF)
  • The Diary of an Apprentice Cabinetmaker: Edward Jenner Carpenter’s “Journal,” 1844-45, ed. by Christopher Clark (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1988). (PDF; web: intro; web: diary)

Tucher’s article is a nice overview of the great range of printed material that appeared in early 19th-century America. Steffen’s article is more specific and business-oriented: It explores the question of how newspaper publishers got paid, how they produced revenue from their product. A curious factoid of newspaper business history in that era is that subscribers often did not pay their bills. Publishers complained bitterly about that, but they rarely canceled delinquent subscriptions. The Carpenter diary provides the context for an afternoon library session, and so we are labeling it “core.” But you do not need to read it closely, just give it a skim. For our purposes, what is interesting about Carpenter, an apprentice cabinetmaker, is the great range of his reading and the wide variety of ways that he got news, shared news, and discussed news in Greenfield, Mass., in the 1840s.


Unit IV: Religion and Reform

Monday, August 3: Politics as Media Evangelism


  • David Paul Nord, “Benevolent Books: Printing, Religion, and Reform,” in History of the Book, vol. 2: Extensive Republic, ed. by Gross and Kelley. (PDF)
  • David Paul Nord, “Tocqueville, Garrison, and the Perfection of Journalism” Journalism History, 13 (Summer 1986). (PDF) Also appears in Nord, Communities of Journalism, chap. 4.
  • Benjamin Fagan, “Publics and Peddlers: The Newspaper in the Slave Narrative” (paper delivered at AAS program, April 18, 2012). (PDF)

Though the rapid spread of newspapers in the early 19th century was mainly a commercial enterprise, noncommercial printing and publishing were important as well. And that’s what this day’s sessions are about. Religious organizations pioneered in using the printed word for evangelism, and we will read and talk a bit about the explosion of religious printing in this era. But other reform movements—including anti-slavery—used the same techniques as the religious evangelists to produce political journalism. The first reading for this session by Nord is an overview of the noncommercial press of the early 19th century. The second article is about the political style of journalism in the abolitionist press; it’s about journalism as politics. The Fagan paper explores the uses of newspapers by two famous former slaves, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.


  • Jacqueline Bacon, Freedom’s Journal: The First African-American Newspaper (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2007), introduction and chaps. 1–2. (PDF)
  • David Paul Nord, “Religious Reading and Readers in Antebellum America,” Journal of the Early Republic, 15 (Summer 1995). (PDF)

Bacon’s book is about the role of the first African-American newspaper in building the free black community in antebellum America. Nord’s article “Religious Reading and Readers” is a study of the readership of religious materials. It is an example of how a history of reading, not just publishing, might be done.


Unit V: New Technology

Tuesday, August 4: New Media Forms and Formats


  • Georgia B. Barnhill, “Transformations in Pictorial Printing,” in History of the Book, vol. 2: Extensive Republic, ed. by Gross and Kelley. (PDF)

Paul Starr’s book is a sweeping synthesis of the history of communications policy-making in America. This chapter is about the coming of the electric telegraph, one of the most important new technologies for journalism in the 19th century. Barnhill’s chapter is an overview of the revolution in graphic printing in that century.


  • “Revolution in Print: Graphics in Nineteenth-Century America,” Common-Place, 7 (April 2007). (PDF; web)

This is an entire issue of the AAS’s online history magazine Common-Place devoted to the graphic arts and pictorial printing. You might enjoy skimming through some of the articles and their illustrations.

Wednesday, August 5: New Business Models—the Illustrated Magazine


  • Joshua Brown, Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), chaps. 1–2 (PDF).
  • Michael Winship, “‘The Greatest Book of Its Kind’: A Publishing History of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 109, Part 2 (1999). (PDF; web)
  • Barbara Hochman, “Devouring Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Antebellum ‘Common Readers,’” in History of Reading, Vol. 1: International Perspectives, c. 1500–1900, ed. by Shafquat Towheed and W.R. Owens (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2011) .(PDF)

Josh Brown is our guest faculty visitor for the day. His book, and especially these chapters, is about pictorial printing and the news. The essays by Winship and Hochman explore the greatest publishing phenomenon of the era: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. One of our afternoon sessions on Day 10 will explore Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a variety of media formats.


  • Cynthia Lee Patterson, Art for the Middle Classes: America’s Illustrated Magazines of the 1840s (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010), chaps. 1–2. (PDF)
  • Barbara Hochman, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the National Era: An Essay in Generic Norms and the Contexts of Reading,” Book History, 7 (2004). (PDF)

Patterson’s book is about art prints in popular magazines. Hochman’s article explores the readership of Uncle Tom in its original serialized form in the abolitionist magazine National Era.


Unit VI: Civil War and American Media in the 1860s

Thursday, August 6: American Media and the Civil War


  • Seth Rockman, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Journal of the Civil War Era, 2 (March 2012). (PDF)
  • Andrew Delbanco, “The Civil War Convulsion,” New York Review of Books (March 19, 2015). (PDF)
  • Maurie D. McInnis, “How the Slave Trade Built America,” New York Times (April 3, 2015). (PDF)

These three pieces provide an overview of current Civil War historiography. They are not about the press but are about the central topics and themes of Civil War studies today.


  • Garry Wills, “How Lincoln Played the Press,” New York Review of Books (November 6, 2014). (PDF)
  • Andie Tucher, “Reporting for duty: The Bohemian Brigade, the Civil War, and the Social Construction of the Reporter,” Book History, 9 (2006). (PDF)
  • Megan Kate Nelson, “Looking for Limbs in all the Right Places,” Common-Place, 12 (October 2011). (PDF; web)

Wills’s essay is a thoughtful review of Harold Holzer’s new book, Lincoln and the Power of the Press (2014). It portrays Lincoln as a master of press relations. Tucher’s article is about the professionalization of the reporters who covered the war. The Nelson article examines the images of war’s carnage and ruin. Megan Nelson will join us on Day 11 as guest faculty, for both morning discussions and afternoon library sessions.


  • Menahem Blondheim, “‘Public Sentiment Is Everything’: The Union’s Public Communications Strategy and the Bogus Proclamation of 1864,” Journal of American History, 89 (December 2002). (PDF)
  • Megan Kate Nelson, Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), chaps. 3-4. (PDF)

The Blondheim article is a richly detailed academic study of how the federal government used the telegraph during the war, not just for the transmission of military intelligence, but also for the control and manipulation of public information. The Nelson chapters expand upon the topics discussed in her Common-Place article above.

Friday, August 7: News on the Home Front


  • Ellen Gruber Garvey, “Anonymity, Authorship, and Recirculation: A Civil War Episode,” Book History, 9 (2006). (PDF)
  • Judith Giesberg, “The Civil War at 150: Memory and Meaning,” Common-Place, 14 (Winter 2014). (PDF)

Garvey’s article falls into the realm of “reader response” history: It is about how people used war poetry that appeared in newspapers. Giesberg’s piece is about a Civil War diary. Both are related to Day 12’s Civil War topics: how ordinary people read, recorded, shared, and transformed Civil War news to make sense of it in their own lives.


  • Sarah Burns and Daniel Greene, “The Toys of War,” New York Times (February 27, 2014). (PDF)

This op-ed piece is about a children’s toy that appeared at the end of the war. The war produced a variety of non-textual printed materials in the form of games, picture cards, and toys. Because of its interest in the development of color lithographic printing in the 19th century, the AAS has a variety of these sorts of objects and materials in its collections.

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