In this episode Stan interviews Dr. Johann Neem, historian and author, whose research focuses on the history of American democracy. They discuss history in the public realm, why history has become so controversial in recent years, and where it’s all headed.
Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Dr. J.E. Morgan, an NEH-ARP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia, and, beginning this fall, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Emory University.
Tell Us About Yourself: I’m originally from Georgia and completed a B.A. at Georgia State, an M.A. in English at the University of Missouri, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at Emory. This spring, I wrapped up a year of teaching at the University of Florida as a Visiting Assistant Professor, and I’m currently an NEH-ARP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia. At Emory and UF, I’ve taught courses on U.S. history from the colonial period to Reconstruction; histories of race and gender history in the Atlantic World and Revolutionary era; and, last spring, an undergraduate research seminar on the archive of slavery. In the fall, I will return to Emory as a Visiting Assistant Professor and am looking forward to teaching a course on the era of the American Revolution and another on women’s history in the colonial era through 1800.
Tell Us About Your Current Project: Currently, I’m working on my manuscript, entitled American Concubines: Gender, Race, Law, and Power. This project examines the shaping of southern society and culture around a practice that has long been called “concubinage.” This term shows up in manuscripts and print materials from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in historiographical sources, and in many other sources on slavery in the Atlantic world. Because this term appears in so many contexts and can be ambiguous in terms of its usage, an important part of my project is investigating the definitions of “concubinage.” I also examine the development of concubinage as a practice stemming from and reinforcing the power imbalance that informed sexual relations between White men and enslaved women in British slave societies. Many sources reveal that enslaved women often contested this imbalance in various ways and that it was occasionally upset by their actions. Conversely, enslavers used instances of contestation to strengthen their power over enslaved people and impose more stringent measures to ensure that enslaved women and their children by White men would be excluded from protections granted to White women and their children.
What Are you Finding at GHS? I’ve been researching at GHS since beginning my doctoral work, and it has been great to return year after year to work in the archive. During this time, I have collected information from documents connecting the development of slavery in Georgia to slavery in earlier British colonies. These include legal and state documents relating to slavery in early Georgia and family papers that include personal letters, diaries, and financial records that trace the development of a system of slavery in Georgia that drew upon plantation slavery in Carolina and the British Caribbean. Also valuable in many of these collections are correspondence and other materials that reveal specific cultural attitudes of eighteenth-century British Caribbean colonies regarding race and gender that influenced the development of laws regarding slavery in early Georgia. Some of these collections include Georgia and South Carolina Court Declarations; judicial records of various Georgia counties just after the American Revolution; and individual and family papers such as the Stanford Brown Collection (GHS 2564); the Joseph Vallence Bevan Papers (GHS 0071); the Couper and Wylly family papers (GHS 1872), the Jones family papers (GHS 0440), and the Sheftall family collection (GHS 1414).
Together, these kinds of sources can show us how laws were being written and interpreted in ways that both reflected and shaped the culture of early Georgia. They reveal the development of a system of slavery that drew upon those of Jamaica, Barbados, and Carolina. They also complicate understandings of how enslaved women in particular navigated their precarious positions within such brutal systems where security and safety were as elusive as freedom itself.
I’m grateful to everyone at the Research Center during my time there and look forward to future research trips!
The Georgia Historical Society welcomed the inaugural class of Dooley Distinguished Research Fellows to the GHS Research Center in May. The Research Fellows Program, part of the larger Vincent J. Dooley Distinguished Fellows Program, honors Vince Dooley for his lifelong commitment to history and higher education.
The Research Fellows Program is designed to mentor the next generation of historians by giving younger scholars the opportunity to conduct research for a specific period of time in the vast collection of primary sources at the Georgia Historical Society Research Center. The research is expected to lead to a major piece of scholarly work, such as a dissertation, a book, an article in a refereed scholarly journal, a chapter in an edited collection, or an academic paper presented at a scholarly conference. Click here to learn more about the Dooley Fellows program.
For the next several weeks Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to the 2022 Dooley Research Fellows to learn about their work, their research at GHS, and the experience of being a Dooley Distinguished Fellow. This week we’ll focus on Dawn Wiley, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alabama.
Tell Us About Yourself: As the daughter of a United States Navy Master Chief, I was born in the Philippines and grew up moving around quite often until my family finally settled in Atlanta when I was in middle school. I’ve called it home ever since.
I received my B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History from Georgia State University in 2010. I initially thought I wanted to go to law school, but I decided to pursue my true passion for history after working a year in the legal field. From there, I went on to earn an M.A. in History from Georgia State University in 2015 while working and traveling full time as a litigation paralegal at a prestigious national law firm.
I knew I had only scratched the surface when I successfully defended my master’s thesis on southern women during the Civil War. After receiving the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council Award for Excellence in Student Research for my thesis in 2016, it only confirmed that my project was worthy of further exploration and also had great potential to expand the field of women and gender in the United States South. I made the decision to enter the history program at The University of Alabama in 2017 because of all that it had to offer to graduate students.
Although my time at UA did not come without challenges or adversity, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. From receiving quality instruction from distinguished professors on how to teach at the college level and become a professor in the future, to fully funded research trips abroad, and the opportunity to act as editor of a graduate student-run academic journal called The Southern Historian, I am extremely fortunate for my training as a historian at UA and look forward to a career in academia. Under the direction and guidance of absolutely brilliant scholars that make up my dissertation committee, (Joshua Rothman, Kari Frederickson, Andrew Huebner, and Holly Grout), I am carefully undergoing the process of researching and writing my dissertation with hopes of defending in late 2023.
What Interested You in the Dooley Distinguished Fellowship? What has your experience been like here at GHS? I was particularly interested in applying for the Dooley Distinguished Fellowship because of the nature of my dissertation. Since my project is strictly a study of Georgia during the Civil War, and for the simple fact that Savannah is one of the three areas in the state I am examining, I knew that the GHS would hold primary sources most pertinent to my work. A quick search on the GHS website under the online catologue/finding aid yielded several results for journals, letters, ledger books, memoirs, and pension applications that I knew would support my arguments and therefore, became eager to explore them in person. I am very thankful that I was selected as one of the Fellows because the sources I found have not been used (to my knowledge) in the existing literature. I am excited at the prospect of bringing these sources to light in the dissertation, and if all goes well, the manuscript for my first book!
My experience at GHS was unmatched by any archive I have ever visited in my time as an M.A. and Ph.D. student. From the time I was first informed of receiving the award, to undergoing the uncertainty of the pandemic, and finally arriving in Savannah to complete the research, the team at GHS provided me with every resource and attention I needed and thoroughly answered any questions I had. I am most indebted to all of the archivists for their willingness to help me navigate finding aids, microfilm, and even suggest I look into sources that I had not yet considered or even knew existed. Most especially, I thank Nate Pederson and Stan Deaton, not only for facilitating the fellowship process but for their genuine efforts to ensure that my time at GSH was a complete success.
Finally, most graduate students would agree that the pandemic not only put a hold on their research plans but also on the important social aspect of conversing with other scholars. This fellowship at GHS afforded me one of the first opportunities I’ve had since getting back to the “new normal” to speak about my research with someone other than my advisors. Interactions with the other Fellows, Tracy Barnett and Lewis Eliot, were most fruitful because we were able to discuss new scholarship and bounce research ideas off each other. It was an added pleasure to share my dissertation project and findings at the archives with the entire GHS staff during an informal presentation in the Jepson House Education Center’s beautiful gardens. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone I’ve met during my time as a Dooley Distinguished Fellow, and hopefully, continue engaging in conversations that will inspire me to produce the best work possible.
Tell Us About Your Current Project: Scholars of the American Civil War have long contended that the war became an impetus for drastic change in many aspects of American life. Included in these changes were the role of women, traditional class hierarchies, and public welfare assistance in the Unites States South. In my dissertation, entitled “We the Soldiers’ Wives: Gender, Class, and the Welfare State in Civil War Georgia, 1860-1877,” I study changing nineteenth-century class structures, the transformation of gender roles and the family, White women’s involvement in politics and the public sphere, and finally, a rapidly expanding welfare state during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. More specifically, my project examines White non-elite Georgia women’s petitions and personal correspondence to government officials and male family members away at war, as well as their grassroots organized protests, to discover how these issues developed in Civil War and Reconstruction-era Georgia.
In recent Civil War studies, historians have placed increasing focus on Southern women, class, and welfare politics. Though scholars have deepened our understanding of these issues within the past two decades, several crucial gaps remain in the current literature that need further investigation, particularly in the state of Georgia. Divided into three chronological parts (Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction), my dissertation first explores nineteenth-century gender roles and class structures for white women in the state of Georgia in the Antebellum era. I attempt to provide a full-length treatment of the complexity of southern class structures for White citizens in the state of Georgia, while contributing to a historiography normally dominated with studies of the planter elite by highlighting the lived experiences of an active urban middle class and yeoman class in the state of Georgia.
The Civil War portion of my dissertation examines the ways the war transformed both class hierarchies and traditional gender roles for women as heads of households and as political entities. I also investigate the changing relationship between White women and their male kinfolk and the Confederate government in the state of Georgia, as well as the earliest beginnings of a welfare state. Moreover, I explore the extent to which the actions of White non-elite women affected the Georgia government’s decision to create a specific Confederate welfare policy for soldiers’ wives, widows, and their dependents. This investigation allows me to test the argument some scholars have made that women’s “politics of subsistence and survival” during the war affected the state’s decision to create a specific Confederate welfare policy for soldiers’ wives, widows, and their dependents, and ultimately, crippled the Confederacy’s ability to wage war as a result.
The post-war years conclude my dissertation with an investigation of how White non-elite Georgia women engaged in the public and political sphere in the Reconstruction era. I also hope to include how Black soldiers and their families played active roles in the expansion of the welfare state after they won their independence in Reconstruction-era Georgia.
What Are you Finding at GHS? To say that I hit the primary source “jackpot” at the GHS would be an understatement!
I spent the first day of my fellowship examining letters between husbands away at war and wives on the homefront during the war. Letters such as the Francis L. Mobley Letters (MS 1822) and the Julian M. Burnett Civil War Correspondence (MS 0911) not only provide evidence that the war induced material and economic deprivation for Georgia women at home but also gives context into the relationship between spouses during the war. These letters are a strong indicator of how much influence women wielded on their husband’s decision to remain or flee the ranks when conditions at home became unbearable as the war progressed. I am finding that although these soldiers did request leaves of absences and furloughs from Confederate service, they remained in the ranks when those requests were denied, thus Georgia soldiers held a higher loyalty to the Confederacy than becoming more beholden to answer calls from the homefront.
When sparking up a conversation of my interest in looking at different classes of women and their activity in Civil War Savannah, GHS Reference Assistant Meaghan Gray pointed me in the direction of two sources that were not on my original “pull list” but quickly became a welcome surprise. The first was the Savannah City Directory for 1860. This directory listed men, as well as women, their occupations, addresses, and businesses in the year before the outbreak of the Civil War. Prominent historians have argued that Savannah contained virtually no middle class, but a quick look into this directory shows that civilians worked as “merchants, business owners, shop keepers, etc.” suggesting that a thriving urban middle class did in fact exist in Savannah. It confirmed my suspicion that historians and scholars of the South may need to think more carefully about how we construct class hierarchies. Perhaps the time is now to re-evaluate current interpretations of class in the existing literature and take into consideration what socio-economic structures look like in different parts of the state (rural vs. urban areas).
Secondly, Meghan informed me of the Chatham Artillery Records (MS 0966), one of the oldest military organizations in the state of Georgia. An investigation of these documents led me to discover the Savannah Ordnance Depot Employment Roll (GHS 0701), which later became the Savannah Arsenal in 1864. The “Roster of the Civilians Employed and Occupations” exposed that Savannah women sought wage work at the arsenal as clerks and cartridge makers. This is similar to my findings of women wage workers at the Atlanta Arsenal and adds to my overall argument that the Civil War upended the nature of traditional gender roles and women’s work for Georgia women. Furthermore, this lends further proof to my assertion that women advocated for themselves and their families by entering wage work as a subversive strategy of survival, while keeping their femininity intact.
Also of note are the Savannah Widows Society Records (MS 1651) and the Louisa Porter Foundation Records (MS 0500). These organizations were some of the earliest forms of public welfare assistance for destitute and poor women and children in the city of Savannah. These records cover the antebellum era, the Civil War years, and the Reconstruction era and will undoubtedly become a rich source to consult when examining Georgia women’s influence on Civil War and post-war public welfare policy in greater depth.
These are just a few highlights of my many discoveries at the GHS. I am excited to dive deeper into my analysis of these sources in the coming months of dissertating and hopefully, provide more awareness into what awaits prospective researchers and scholars at GHS. It was truly an honor being a Dooley Distinguished Fellow, and I thank the staff at GHS again for this fantastic opportunity!
Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Matthew Kelley, the Graduate Project Coordinator at the Center for the Study of War & Society at the University of Tennessee, and a Ph.D. candidate in the University’s History department.
Tell Us About Yourself: I was raised in Corbin, Kentucky, a small town in the eastern and Appalachian part of the state. Though the town is surrounded by natural beauty, it is probably better known as the “Birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken,” where Harlan Sanders first tried his luck in the restaurant business during the Great Depression.
I attended the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, for my undergraduate degree and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in History and Political Science. I went on to attend the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and completed my M.A. in Modern European History. I am now working towards my PhD, specializing in World War I, nationalism, and civil society. I am currently writing my dissertation under Dr. Vejas Liulevicius.
I also currently serve as the Associate Director for the University of Tennessee’s Center for the Study of War and Society. Our mission is to preserve and research the stories of the people in our region and their experiences with war from 1700 to the present day. We have one of the oldest oral history projects dedicated to interviewing military veterans in the United States. Along with working on my dissertation, I am completing a digital memorial project with the Center, including biographical profiles of all UTK students, alumni, and staff killed in action from the First World War to the present day.
Tell Us About Your Current Project: My dissertation investigates German agitation within Swiss civil society during the First World War. Whereas the Swiss state stayed defiantly neutral over the course of the war, the public of the country was alive with activity. Pro-German and pro-French sympathies ran throughout the country to the point that many officials feared open, civil confrontation from 1914 to 1918. Germans, whether members of the imperial government or private individuals aligned with it, sought to capitalize on this situation for the benefit of their war effort. My research particularly focuses on Swiss voluntary civic associations as an arena for this agitation. From alpine hiking clubs to the Red Cross, I am looking at a diverse range of organizations that the Germans attempted to sway. In addition, I am curious about how their tactics and rhetoric changed over the course of the war, especially as the tides began to turn against them in 1917.
As an undergraduate, I developed a passion for service leadership in my community and often spent my spare time volunteering with organizations. One such group was called Mountain Outreach, a Habitat for Humanity-type organization that was specially focused on my region of central Appalachia. This area is one of the poorest in the United States, and I observed first-hand how these civic associations stepped up to provide aid and fill gaps in ways the government had either failed at or simply ignored. This background, along with my interest in the story-telling and methodology of history, has informed my research.
I chose this topic initially out of a curiosity that there must have been more to the story of Switzerland’s role in the war than it simply being an aloof neutral country. Though the state was pledged to neutrality, an investigation of the activities within civil society yielded evidence that civic associations were an active force in shaping the nature of the war. They also worked through social networks that crossed political boundaries even at a time when borders were physically marked with trenches and fortifications. I hope that my finished project will offer a fresh, transnational approach to World War I and the role of neutrals and might even leave readers with some food for thought in regards to the important role that civic associations hold in society and the power they are able to wield.
What Are you Finding at GHS?: “Why is a scholar in Modern European History at the Georgia Historical Society?” It is true that most of my research is European centered, in the German or French language, and seems to have nothing to do with Georgia history. However, the coronavirus has placed unusual limitations on international research, and I have spent the time looking for creative avenues for research until restrictions begin to ease. One of these paths has led me to the Georgia Historical Society, which houses the papers of Pleasant Alexander Stovall, who was the United States Ambassador to Switzerland during the war (MS 1021). Ambassador Stovall grew up in Augusta, Georgia, and started the Savannah Press newspaper. A boyhood friendship he developed with President Woodrow Wilson led to his appointment as Wilson’s trusted eyes and ears in Switzerland in 1913, just before the beginning of the war. When he returned home from his post at the end of the war, Stovall brought back wartime documents from the US embassy in Berne and placed them in his personal collections.
My research at GHS focuses on these documents brought back by Ambassador Stovall to see what information the US embassy collected on German agitation in Switzerland during the war and how serious a threat they gauged it to be. Stovall was a staunch, pro-Entente sympathizer from the beginning of the war in August 1914, while the United States itself was still a neutral country. He had a keen interest in German agents and kept Washington informed of these activities. His collection preserved several communications with President Wilson on German activity, and he made careful notes on the movement of Swiss public sympathies throughout the war. This was what I was expecting to find, but there were many surprising sets of documents that I discovered in his papers that has since sent my research in entirely new directions.
Ambassador Stovall wrote a book after the war titled Switzerland and the World War. Though I am sure he meant it as a historical account, the book is really a rather biased, autobiographical recollection of his time at the embassy in Berne. In the book, Stovall mentions as an aside a case where a German spy was caught in France with forged documents that were supposed to mimic ones that were given out by the American Embassy in Berne to American travelers seeking access to France from Switzerland. He labels it an odd mix up and leaves it at that. However, a folder of documents tucked away in his private collections proves an entirely different story. The truth behind this case reveals a network through which the German Espionage Department used the International Red Cross to move agents masking as convalescing wounded officers to enact agitation. What I have yet to determine though is to what degree American officials might have succumbed to the agitation to be persuaded to directly help these agents along their route.
With the reopening of the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center, GHS is again getting visits from scholars, students, and researchers from all over the world researching and studying a wide variety of topics. Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of these visiting scholars and share with you what they’re working on and what they’re finding at GHS.
This week we’ll spotlight Molly Nebiolo, a PhD candidate at Northeastern University in Boston, and a 2021-2022 Friends of the APS Predoctoral Fellow in Early American History at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
Tell Us About Yourself: I grew up on Long Island Sound in the town of Milford, Connecticut, but I attended college in the Midwest at Butler University. I was always drawn to history as a subject, even though I was exhausted by the colonial New England and Pilgrim history that was found all over Connecticut. At Butler, I double majored in History and Biology and wrote a senior honors thesis attempting to disseminate why socio-cultural feelings towards English surgeons evolved in the early modern period. After college, I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to be a researcher at MIT and an IT technician at a nearby school before starting my PhD program at Northeastern University. I am a 5th year, so the end is in sight!
Tell Us About Your Current Project: I have continued my interest in the history of medicine in the early modern period, now studying the era I grew up disliking: early American history. Opinions really can change with age! My dissertation looks at the ways in which health influenced the planning, settlement, and growth of early American cities that followed the “Grand Modell” scheme of construction: Savannah, Charleston, and Philadelphia. I argue that public health was a central agenda to settlement and city infrastructure in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With my background in computers, I also dabble in the digital humanities and have used digital tools for various projects, the most relevant being an ongoing project to 3D model parts of colonial Philadelphia to better understand early American urban space. All of this is for my dissertation and, hopefully, a book.
As many people can attest when getting their PhD, I stumbled upon my research topic. I was initially interested in women and medicine in the early American period, but when I began research, I noticed how no one had written much on the role of health in early urban spaces, even though “cities” dotted the Atlantic coast. I also noticed that when health has been written about by scholars, it was often the history of the big epidemic outbreaks or political influences on health, not a deeper analysis of early American conceptualizations of healthiness and disease. My project tries to provide a more comprehensive history of urban public health that exemplifies the diverse ideas of healthiness that existed in these cities.
What Are you Finding at GHS? The GHS has been integral to my research on colonial Savannah. I’ve examined a wide range of items to best understand how Proprietors and Trustees planned and settled the town, and how inhabitants thought about their health and the healthiness of the city. This includes the letters of Oglethorpe and other colonial inhabitants in Savannah in the eighteenth century. I also looked at some of the early nineteenth-century texts written by doctors to explain the 1820 yellow fever outbreak to see how terms and ideas remained or changed over time. Maps of early Savannah have been useful (and there are more I will check out on the Digital Images catalogue!). On my last day, I looked through some of the colonial laws and records of early Savannah that are housed in London but are in microfilm at the GHS.
One collection that stood out to me was the Walter Charlton Hartridge, Jr. Collection (MS 1349). The breadth of information that Hartridge collected and wrote about regarding Savannah’s history has been surprisingly useful to me. While his papers are from the twentieth century, his notes on the mortality records found in the Georgia Gazette, from 1763 to 1802, and documents on early Savannah architecture were a surprisingly useful find!