American History

Police Before “The Police”

Sal Nicolazzo— In his Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and Arms—the precursor to The Wealth of Nations—Adam Smith defines “the objects of police” as “the cheapness of commodities, public security and cleanliness.” This broad mandate for “police”—most of which has little or nothing to do with crime prevention—may sound idiosyncratic to

Continue reading…

Inside an Impounded Brooklyn Slave Ship with Walt Whitman

John Harris— The United States played a crucial role in the slave trade after 1850, when Brazil effectively sealed its shores to the traffic. Forced to rethink their operations, a small number of slave traders from around the Atlantic world descended on the United States, incorporating American ports directly into

Continue reading…

Looking to the Past to Find Ourselves

Michael Hattem– For a few decades, American history has played a prominent role in the most current iteration of culture wars in the United States. We saw this most recently in some of the ways that President Trump motivated his base in the 2020 presidential election. These included holding “the

Continue reading…

Civil Liberties in a Pandemic?

John Fabian Witt— While the courts took a middle path, public discourse around contagion remained subject to confusion and hysteria. Sometimes epidemics produced panicked overreach by the state, as in the case of the plague in San Francisco, but at other times stubborn resistance to authority rested on claims of

Continue reading…

The Meeting at White Marsh, 1789

William G. Thomas III— The poplars swayed high above Edward Queen and Charles Mahoney on that May morning. The summer heat crawled up from the Patuxent River, summoned from its slack banks and slow bends, drawing its oppressive punch from the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. To the

Continue reading…

Two Consequences of Tough-On-Crime

Russell Crandall— A hallmark of the tough-on-crime era was the militarization of domestic law enforcement, especially on the anti drug front. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were first formed from police ranks in the 1960s to handle extreme cases such as mass shootings and hostage situations. But by the

Continue reading…

Lakota America

Pekka Hamalainen— In 1776 two nations were born in North America. One was conceived in Philadelphia, the other in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and they were separated by more than seventeen hundred miles. Exactly a century later those two nations would clash violently along the Little Bighorn River

Continue reading…

More than Meets the Eye: American Furniture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Alexandra Alevizatos Kirtley— After several years of research and writing, the first publication on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s revered collection of American furniture dating from 1650 to 1840 has arrived. Focusing only on the highlights—297 to be exact—this catalogue is debuting long after the publication of similar volumes on

Continue reading…

Four Approaches to Conspiracy Theories

Stephen Bates— Conspiracy theories are much in the news, most notably the QAnon tangle of claims about the Deep State, child-trafficking, and cannibalism. Although the details change, allegations of secret machinations have been a staple of American politics since before the Revolution. Some are harmless entertainment, but others foster bigotry,

Continue reading…

Richard Oakes and the Takeover of Fort Lawton

Kent Blansett— On Sunday at 3 a.m. Richard Oakes and ninety other members of UIAT [United Indians of All Tribes] assembled at a rendezvous point in downtown Seattle. A veteran and leader of the Alcatraz takeovers, Oakes must have been transported back to the three attempts it had taken IAT

Continue reading…