The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, in
cooperation with Historic St. Mary's City and St. Mary's College of
Maryland, with support from Hampden Sydney College and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, will host a conference on November 19-21, 2009, to examine prevailing interpretative paradigms of early Virginia and Maryland. 2009 marks the thirty-year anniversary of the publication of Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, eds., The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1979), an essay collection that advanced interpretations that-in conjunction with Aubrey C. Land, Lois Green Carr, and Edward C. Papenfuse, eds., Law, Society and Politics in Early Maryland (Baltimore, 1977), and Lois Green Carr, Philip D. Morgan, and Jean B. Russo, eds., Colonial Chesapeake Society (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1988)-continue to shape understanding of the early colonial Chesapeake. Ought this still to be the case?
Given the recent sustained concentration, occasioned by the 2007 Jamestown anniversary, on the initial period of settlement up to 1630, the conference will shift the focus to the ensuing hundred years (1630-1730), the "century" on which most historians of the so-called "Chesapeake school" concentrated their research. In contrast to scholars of "early Virginia," who have been privileged to draw on rich government and private Old World archives as well as on extensive European and colonial literary sources, the strength (and, some may argue, the weakness) of "early Chesapeake" historiography has been its almost-exclusive reliance on the surviving records of local county courts and parishes and, more generally, on quantitative rather than on qualitative research strategies.
This conference seeks to bring together a range of established and younger scholars to reflect on those aspects of the region's history and material culture that might most fruitfully be reexamined or explored anew in the light of new directions in early American history. Consequently, paper submissions are solicited not only from scholars who identify themselves primarily as students of one or both of the two Chesapeake colonies but also from those who examine this region, among others, in the wider context of the Atlantic world. It also seeks to cross disciplinary as well as imperial boundaries and hence welcomes paper proposals from a variety of disciplines. The three publications referenced above testify to the unusual amount of interchange and collaboration that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s among historians, archaeologists, and archivists, many of them affiliated with history museums rather than traditional academic institutions, who collectively pursued coordinated research on a broad range of historical topics. The conference, we hope, will encourage and facilitate similarly fruitful cross-disciplinary conversations and information sharing.
Among the areas that conference participants might address are whether the paradigms developed initially from a series of intense studies of small geographic and political units (more in Maryland than in Virginia) remain valid for the region as a whole. Economic, social, and cultural scholars might assess whether subsequent research has changed our perception of the adjustments that occurred in these areas during the transitional period from the 1680s up to 1730, when a native-born white population replaced an immigrant one, slavery supplanted indentured servitude as the primary form of labor, and the tobacco economy underwent significant structural change. Archaeologists and architectural historians could highlight new findings that are altering our comprehension of material culture and living standards. Others might explore the extent to which recent work on gender, family, and race has revised generalizations about the status and role of women. And, further broadening the focus, participants might examine how the application of an English-Atlantic, Franco-Atlantic, or Iberian-Atlantic perspective that emphasizes exchanges of goods, capital, people, and ideas among Europe, Africa, and the Americas, contributes to or changes what we know about the Chesapeake. Similarly, we also encourage submissions that consider how investigations of topics and peoples that received less attention in the initial formulations-Native Americans, especially from the 1640s onward, and religion, for example-enrich understanding.
Appropriate to the 375th anniversary of the founding of Maryland, conference sessions will be held at St. Mary's City, Maryland's seventeenth-century capital, and nearby Solomon's Island. The program committee encourages advanced graduate students as well as more senior scholars to submit paper and panel proposals on any aspect of the early Chesapeake broadly conceived within an Atlantic framework or tightly focused within the landmass of Maryland and Virginia. Those whose paper proposals are accepted by the program committee will be eligible for a conference subsidy of $300 to assist with the cost of travel and accommodations, but we encourage individuals with access to travel funds to draw on that resource.
To apply, send a 500-word synopsis of your proposal along with a short c.v. to firstname.lastname@example.org, as an attachment in MS Word. The deadline for submissions is November 28, 2008.
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