American Studies Seminar for Undergraduates

Detail from the Massachusetts Spy, June 21, 1775

Fall 2024

Living in New England in the Age of Revolutions

Instructor: Dr. Joseph M. Adelman, Framingham State University

Popular accounts of the American Revolution often emphasize the contributions of New England. When they invoke the region, they frequently mean Massachusetts, more specifically Boston, and often a set of fifteen to twenty men in particular—occasionally narrowed down simply to two Adamses, a Hancock, perhaps an Otis and Cushing, and maybe a Benjamin Edes or Paul Revere. This course will expand that perspective. New England encompassed a broad geography and range of experiences during the second half of the eighteenth century. There were, of course, those anti-imperial protestors who later founded a state and a nation. But many in New England were Loyalists, and many more than that avoided taking sides. Thousands of women, children, African Americans, and Indigenous people navigate the tumult in their own ways.

In the 1750s, “New England” encompassed just four colonies—perhaps part of a fifth, depending on how one feels about New York’s claims to the territory that would become Vermont. By the 1820s, the northeastern corner of the United States was home to six states that contained the full spectrum of American economic and cultural activity. We will explore the dramatic changes that New Englanders experienced through these decades and how they shaped the world around them. That will include study of the origins of the American Revolution, interactions between Native and European peoples, the anti-slavery movement, the rise of industry, women’s work, the impact of revolutions in France, Haiti, and Latin America, and more. The collections at the American Antiquarian Society are ideal for an investigation into many aspects of life in revolutionary New England. The AAS holds manuscript collections related to hundreds of individual men and women, town, colony, and state records, and a plethora of printed material from books and pamphlets to thousands of newspaper issues. Over the course of the semester, we will explore how these sources can illuminate life in New England during this transformative era.

About the American Studies Seminar

The theme and leader of each year's American Studies Seminar change, but all provide a rare opportunity for undergraduates enrolled at one of the five participating institutions to do primary, in-person research in a major research library.

Admission to the seminar is coordinated by the following faculty representatives on each of the five participating campuses:

  • Assumption University: John F. Bell, jf.bell [at] (jf[dot]bell[at]assumption[dot]edu)
  • Clark University: Meredith Neuman, meneuman [at] (meneuman[at]clark[dot]edu)
  • College of the Holy Cross: Gwenn Miller, gmiller [at] (gmiller[at]holycross[dot]edu)
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Prof. Steven C. Bullock, HUA, sbullock [at] (sbullock[at]wpi[dot]edu)
  • Worcester State University: Tona Hangen, thangen [at] (thangen[at]worcester[dot]edu)

When and Where

The seminar will meet Thursday afternoons, from 2-4 p.m., at the American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts.

About the Instructor

Dr. Joseph Adelman is associate professor of history at Framingham State University and assistant editor for digital initiatives at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. He has written several articles on printers during the Revolution, and his book, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing, 1763–1789, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2019. Adelman was elected to American Antiquarian Society membership in October 2019. He was a Stephen Botein Fellow in 2007-08 and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in 2001-12.

Eligibility and Application

The seminar welcomes applications from students enrolled at one of the five participating institutions whose academic record, personal statement, and letter of recommendation indicate a commitment to academic excellence, the ability to work independently, and a sincere interest in the seminar’s subject matter.

Eligible students may contact one of the faculty representatives listed above for more information.

Apply Online  

Previous Seminars

Year Presenter or Co-leaders Title
2023 Leonard von Morzé Water, Land, and Ecology: Doing Environmental History in Early America
2022 Britt M. Rusert We Protect Us: Early American Histories of Mutual Aid and Community Care
2021 Holly Jackson A Second and More Glorious Revolution: Protest and Radical Thought in the Nineteenth-Century United States
2019 Lisa H. Wilson Pirates in Early America
2018 Jen Manion Early American Transgender Studies
2017 Robert F. Forrant Industrializing Massachusetts: Lowell, Springfield, and Worcester, 1800-1875
2016 Joanne Pope Melish The Worm in the Apple: Slavery, Emancipation, and Race in Early New England
2015 Kevin M. Levin The North's Civil War: Union and Emancipation
2014 Caroline Frank Portraits, Dolls, and Effigies: Humans as Objects in America
2013 Daniel Klinghard The Nineteenth-Century Networked Nation: The Politics of American Technology, 1776-1876
2012 Stephen A. Marini Reason, Revival, and Revolution: Religion in America's Founding, 1726-1792
2011 Hannah Carlson Dressing Democracy: Clothing and Culture in America
2010 Sarah Anne Carter History of Sexuality in Early America
2009 Megan Kate Nelson America's Environmental Histories
2008 Jack W. Larkin "Written by himself... Written by herself" American Life Stories: The Northern United States 1780-1860
2007 Kevin Sweeney Captive Histories: Puritan Captivity Narratives and Native Stories from the Era of the Colonial Wars, 1675-1760
2006 Joseph Cullon Personal Narratives from the Age of the American Revolution, Or Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times
2005 Jack W. Larkin Childhoods Actual and Imagined: New England, 1790-1860
2004 Catherine A. Corman Communication in the Early Nation: Literacy and Print in America, 1750-1840
2003 Carolyn J. Lawes Imagining the Civil War: Race, Gender and the Popular Culture, 1860-1877
2002 Helen R. Deese Private Writings: Their Uses and Value for History and Literature
2001 Daniel A. Cohen Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture in Early America, 1674-1860
2000 Harvey Green Romanticism Confronts History: Literary and Material Culture in the United States, 1820-1876
1999 Barnes Riznik The Shaping of Historical Memory: Collecting the Artifacts of America's Past, 1790-1840
1998 Gregory H. Nobles Seeing America First: Exploration and Imagination in North America, 1500-1900
1997 Ann V. Fabian Accounts of the Self: Autobiography and Personal Narrative in Antebellum America
1996 Wayne S. Franklin Revolutionary Narratives: Memory and Desire in Antebellum America
1995 Janice Simon Wilderness Views: Nature as Other, Self, and Enterprise in American Culture c.1776-1900
1994 Samuel F. Pickering Jr. Children's Books and Childhood Reading in Early America
1993 Dona Brown The Invention of New England in the Nineteenth Century
1992 Lee E. Heller Little Women and Self-Made Men: Gender in the Nineteenth Century
1991 William W. Freehling Slavery and Antislavery in American Civilization, 1820-1861
1990 Jonathan M. Chu Law and Society in America, 1760-1860
1989 Stephen A. Marini Religion in the American Revolution
1988 Philip Cash Health and Health Care in America's Past
1987 Charles E. Clark The Constitution and the Press, 1787-1788: Popular Culture, Political Opinion, and the Ratification Debates
1986 John Conron The American Landscape
1985 Betty Mitchell Antebellum and Civil War Biography
1984 Robert R. Dykstra The Lethal Imagination: Perceptions of Western Violence in American Thought, 1850-1900
1983 Charles Fanning Ethnic America Before the Flood: The Irish and Others
1982 Donald M. Scott High Culture, Low Culture: Recreation and Entertainment in Nineteenth-Century America
1981 Ross W. Beales Jr. Individual, Family, and Community in Eighteenth-Century New England
1980 Kenneth J. Moynihan , Charles Estus Community Life in Preindustrial Worcester
1979 David D. Hall Popular Culture in Preindustrial America, 1650-1850
1978 Stephen W. Nissenbaum Literature and Society in Jacksonian America: Writers Confront the Marketplace