Creating the News (Spring 2011)

Johns Hopkins University
Department of History
Spring 2011

Dr. Joseph M. Adelman Tuesday and Thursday, 1:30-2:45
Gilman Hall 319 Gilman Hall 313
Office Hours: Tues., 3-4; Thurs., 11-12
By appointment

Course Overview

Since the earliest English colonial settlements in the seventeenth century, political debates in America have often centered on the question of who should have access to the media—who, that is, had the right to speak, write, and publish their arguments in public. Political actors also struggled with how best to present their arguments, resulting in an intricate choreography among printed, written, and oral forms of communication. The landscape of these issues shifted over time as more people gained access to public life, and as print helped politics transcend the local. This course will take up these issues in order to understand more fully the interplay between politics and media forms in America between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. It defines politics rather broadly, including the ways in which women, African-Americans, and slaves carved out space for themselves or rebelled against institutional forms of power.

Course Requirements

1. Participation (20%): Participation is vital to the success of any seminar. Students should come to class having read and thought about the materials assigned for that week.

2. Course Blog (20%): In addition to our discussions in class, there is a course blog set up in the course site on Blackboard. Students are expected to participate actively in the blog both by posting and commenting. In some cases, students will respond to a prompt, including a brief “presentation” of their research projects during the middle part of the semester. Students should assume that six posts and six comments constitute the minimal requirement for the blog. A more detailed explanation about how to post, what types of topics to discuss, a style guide, and so on, appears on the main blog page. To find it, click on “Course Content” in the left-hand menu on the course Blackboard site.

3. Research Paper: The primary assignment during the semester will be to complete a 15-20 page research paper. The following assignments are designed to lead up to the full paper. Students should consult with the instructor about their planned topic before beginning the first assignment.

a) Paper Proposal (7½%): Due February 24. This assignment should be approximately 2 pages of writing, plus bibliography. It should include a brief discussion of the paper topic and questions undertaken, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and a brief preliminary discussion of the secondary literature on the topic.

b) Initial Findings (7½%): Due March 17. In approximate 5-6 pages, you should provide an explanation of what you have found in your research, with an emphasis on the argument you are developing. You may choose to include a brief draft of the paper’s introduction or a detailed outline of the paper (in complete sentences) in order to complete this assignment.

c) First Draft (20%): Due April 21. The draft should be at least 10 pages long. It will be graded not only on its completeness, but also grammar, spelling, and formatting. Drafts will be returned on April 26.

d) Final Draft (25%): Due May 12 by 5pm. The final draft should not simply be a cleaner copy of the first draft. Students will be expected to respond to the instructor’s comments with substantive revisions. Grading will be based on the holistic value of the paper as well as the effort to respond to the instructor.


For this course, students should familiarize themselves with the Early American Imprints database, available online on the library website. Many of the primary sources we read this semester will only be available through this database. All items are searchable by their Evans index number, listed on the syllabus, and all documents have been verified as of September 1, 2010. Students should also be familiar with the America’s Historical Newspapers database. All newspaper references in the syllabus can be found through the database through the newspaper’s name and the issue date.

All other readings will be available through course reserves at the Eisenhower library, and many of the readings will be made available online through E-Reserves. For more information, see the course Blackboard site or the Library’s reserves site.

This course assumes a familiarity with the major events of early American history. If students feel they need to brush up, the following textbook is on reserve: Mary Beth Norton, et al., A People and a Nation, 8th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

If you would like a good reference work on how to research and write a history paper, please see William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Required texts:

Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy, and Selected Essays, ed. Christine Dunn Henderson and Mark E. Yellin (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2004).
Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (New York: Penguin, 1986).
Peter P. Hinks, ed., David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).
Susannah Rowson, Charlotte Temple, with an introduction by Cathy N. Davidson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

Course Schedule

Week 1. Introduction

Feb. 1: No reading

Feb. 3: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 2006), introduction (pp. 1-7), ch. 2 (pp. 22-36 only), ch. 3 (37-46), ch. 4 (47-65).
Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications (New York: Basic Books, 2004), introduction.

Week 2. Puritan New England and the Problem of Speech

Feb. 8: Kamensky, Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), Introduction, chs. 1, 2.

Feb. 10: The Salem Witch Trials Papers, selections.

Week 3. The Clash of Cultures: Defining “English” and “Indians”

Feb. 15: Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (New York: Knopf, 1998), ix-xxiii, Prologue, ch. 1-2 (pp. 3-70).

Feb. 17: Mary Rowlandson, Soveraignty and Goodness of God (1682), introduction, removes 1-3, 8, 13, 16, 19-20. Early American Imprints (Evans) #332 (~30 pages).

Week 4. Opposition Politics and the “Free and Open Press”

Feb. 22: Meet at Special Collections, Eisenhower Library, A Level
Robert Darnton, “What is the History of Books?” Daedalus 111, no. 3 (1982): 65-83.

Feb. 24: “Periodicals and Politics,” in The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, vol. 1 of A History of the Book in America, ed. Hugh Amory and David Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 347-376.
A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger, Printer of the New York Weekly Journal (1736), Early American Imprints (Evans) #4107.
Proposals due.

Week 5. Benjamin Franklin and the Eighteenth-Century Author

Mar. 1: Larzer Ziff, “Writing for Print,” in Writing in the New Nation: Prose, Print, and Politics in the Early United States (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 83-106.
Michael Warner, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), ch. 3.

Mar. 3: Franklin, Autobiography, selections.

Week 6. The Dramaturgy of Republicanism

Mar. 8: Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), ch. 2-3.

Mar. 10: Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy.

Week 7. Communicating Resistance and Revolution

Mar. 15: Sandra Gustafson, Eloquence is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America (Chapel Hill: OIEAHC, 1999), ch. 4.
Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York: Vintage, 1998), ch. 3.
Jay Fliegelman, Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 1-28.

Mar. 17: Various versions of the Declaration of Independence: Dunlap imprint, made on July 4, 1776 (Evans 15155); Mary K. Goddard imprint (Evans 15650); calligraphic original.
Newspaper accounts: Pennsylvania Evening Post, July 6, 1776; New-York Journal, July 11, 1776; Boston Continental Journal, July 25, 1776.
Initial Findings Due.

March 21-27: SPRING BREAK

Week 8. Women’s Reading and Citizenship in the New Republic

Mar. 29: Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America, expanded ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), chs. 1, 3, 6.

Mar. 31: Rowson, Charlotte Temple.

Week 9. Claiming the Mantle of Washington: The Man … and the Myth

Apr. 5: François Furstenberg, In the Name of the Father: Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation (New York: Penguin, 2006), ch. 3.
Simon Newman, Parades and the Politics of the Street: Festive Culture in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), ch. 2.

Apr. 7: Mason Locke Weems, The Life of Washington (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1996), chs. 1-2, 8, 12.

Week 10. The Reawakening of Religion

Apr. 12: David Paul Nord, “Religious Reading and Readers in Antebellum America,” Journal of the Early Republic 15, no. 2 (1995): 241-72.
Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), chs. 1, 5.

Apr. 14: Selected articles/sermons of Lorenzo Dow and Charles Grandison Finney.

Week 11. Print and the Politics of Abolition

Apr. 19: David Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820 (Chapel Hill: OIEAHC, 1997), ch. 6.

Apr. 21: Peter P. Hinks, ed., David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).

First draft of paper due.

Week 12. Reading (in) the City

Apr. 26: David Henkin, City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), ch. 5.
Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), introduction, ch. 2.

Apr. 28: Cohen, Gilfoyle, and Horowitz, The Flash Press, Part II, skim.

Week 13. Using the News in Everyday Life

May 3: William J. Gilmore, Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life: Material and Cultural Life in Rural New England, 1780-1835 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989), ch. 10.

May 5: Christopher Clark, “The Diary of an Apprentice Cabinetmaker: Edward Jenner Carpenter’s ‘Journal,’ 1844-45,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, n.s., 98, no. 1 (1988): 303-94.

Final paper due by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, based on date assigned by Registrar for final exam.