New England was built on letters. Its colonists left behind thousands of them, brittle and browning and crammed with curls of purplish script. How they were delivered, though, remains mysterious. We know surprisingly little about the way news and people traveled in early America. No postal service or newspapers existed—not until 1704 would readers be able to glean news from a “public print.” But there was, in early New England, an unseen world of travelers, rumors, movement, and letters. Unearthing that early American communications frontier, American Passage retells the story of English colonization as less orderly and more precarious than the quiet villages of popular imagination.
The English quest to control the northeast entailed a great struggle to control the flow of information. Even when it was meant solely for English eyes, news did not pass solely through English hands. Algonquian messengers carried letters along footpaths, and Dutch ships took them across waterways. Who could travel where, who controlled the routes winding through the woods, who dictated what news might be sent—in Katherine Grandjean’s hands, these questions reveal a new dimension of contest and conquest in the northeast. Gaining control of New England was not solely a matter of consuming territory, of transforming woods into farms. It also meant mastering the lines of communication.
John Hirsch chronicles the research, scientists, and ephemera of the Harvard Forest—a 3,750-acre research forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. Essays by David Foster, Clarisse Hart, and Margot Anne Kelley expand the scope of this photographic exploration at the nexus of science and art.
Hirsch is attentive to both the quixotic and the beautiful, and has created a body of work that is about a desire to understand, describe, and predict the evolution of our surroundings, while showing reverence for the possibility of sublime moments in a place. The forest is here a microcosm for the world in which we live, and this work helps us envision the future we may inhabit, making the book a useful and engaging vantage from which to consider pressing issues of climate change, ecosystem resilience, and land and water use.
Anthropology at Harvard recounts the rich and complex history of anthropology at America’s oldest university, beginning with the earliest precursors of the discipline within the study of natural history. The story unfolds through fascinating vignettes about the many individuals—famous and obscure alike—who helped shape the discipline at Harvard College and the Peabody Museum. Lively anecdotes provide in-depth portraits of dozens of key individuals, including Louis and Alexander Agassiz, Frederic Ward Putnam, Mary Hemenway, Alice Cunningham Fletcher, Sylvanus Morley, A. V. Kidder, and Antonio Apache. The text also throws new light on longstanding puzzles and debates, such as Franz Boas’s censure by the American Anthropological Association and the involvement of Harvard archaeologists in espionage work for the U.S. government during World War I.
The authors take a “cohort” perspective, looking beyond the big names to the larger network of colleagues that formed the dynamic backdrop to the development of ideas. The significant contributions of amateurs and private funders to the early growth of the field are highlighted, as is the active participation of women and of students and scholars of diverse ethnic backgrounds. A monumental achievement, Anthropology at Harvard makes an important contribution to the history of Americanist anthropology.
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