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A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief: BlogDailyHerald, 5 years on

Though it might be hard to believe, the school year has come to an end. The libraries are empty, the Main Green is silent, and the Class of 2014 has marched through the Van Wickle Gates. Congrats to the seniors on your graduation! We’ll miss you dearly, but we know you will be all kinds of successful in life outside College Hill.

The end of the 2013-2014 academic year also marks the conclusion of BlogDailyHerald’s 5th year of production (do we even call it that?). It is sometimes hard to believe how young our web site is, especially given how far we have come in such a short time. The brainchild of some Brown Daily Herald editors back in 2009, Blog has become an organization unlike anything we could have dreamed of.

For the 2011 BDH Commencement magazine, former Blog editors David Winer ’13 and Matt Klimerman ’13 painted a pretty extraordinary picture of what the site’s early days were like. There were no Sunday evening meetings. Blog had “day editors” who handled all of the site’s content for a single day of the week. And edit board meetings? Try “run-ins on the street and in the Ratty.”

That year, Blog’s fearless first leaders revolutionized how the organization works. Our weekly writers’ meeting, daily time-wasters, and current managerial structure all came from these early days. Needless to say, we are all in great debt to the site’s earliest editors.

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Professors who do cool things: Seth Rockman

While Gordon Wood (the subject of this squabble) and our beloved Michael Vorenberg continue to hold it down in Peter Green, a trendsetter has emerged from the History Department’s Sharpe House. According to a recent article in the New York Times, capitalism has become the fashionable topic for historians across the country and Brown’s own Seth Rockman is part of the vanguard. Professor Rockman, an early Americanist, has focused his research on slavery and the elaborate economic machinery that kept the peculiar institution running—incredibly interesting for history nerds, but not quite exciting for the student masses.

In a textbook case of historical contingency, however, Rockman noticed that emphasizing a trendy topic such as capitalism in his course might attract more students from other disciplines to his lectures. Subsequently, as the Times notes, Rockman’s course enrollments jumped up when he changed its title from “Capitalism, Slavery and the Economy of Early America” to “History of Capitalism.” Naturally, the lure of big ideas and power relation exploration—the opiates of undergraduate study—attracted students in droves. Capitalism, additionally, will provide the organizing theme for his introductory U.S. survey class next fall. With a couple of books in the works (including one entitled Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development), there is little doubt that Rockman will remain a key player in this emergent wave of capitalist historians. And long as there are new hegemonic relationships to “explode,” Brown students will be along for the ride.


The scholars are coming, the scholars are coming!

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While the concept of an additional 100 people filing into the small-but-mighty state of Rhode Island might be puzzling, it’s in fact the case. Even more interesting is the fact that these 100 individuals are hanging out in Providence for a jam-packed four days… and that they’re all international Fulbright scholars. Yeah, Providence’s IQ just went through the roof.

According to a report on Boston.com, 100 Fulbright scholars from 70 different countries are gracing our tiny city with their presence. The purpose of their visit? This event, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, will allow these individuals to participate alongside Providence historians in various community service projects and engage with the city’s history that dates back to colonial times. It’s easy to take the glorious PVD for granted, but it played an integral role in the development of the United States as we know it. (We’re actually kind of jealous that we’re not on this program with them.) That said, keep an eye out for some really smart international students on the Hill this weekend.

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Time-waster of the day: February 14, 2013

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Need a Valentine’s Day card for the history concentrator/general nerd in your life (read: me)? Ben Kling has you covered. This card also comes in Mandela, Nietzsche, and Curie forms.

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Professors who do cool things: Michael Vorenberg, the unsung hero of ‘Lincoln’?

In an article on The New Republic website, Timothy Noah suggested that Brown University superhero history professor Michael Vorenberg and his book, Final Freedom, were likely the “principal source” for the Oscar-nominated Lincoln. Vorenberg’s book is widely regarded as the most comprehensive account of the passage of the 13th Amendment, which is the main focus of the film.

Noah also expressed dismay that Lincoln‘s screenwriter, Tony Kushner, and the film’s producers had not publicly recognized Vorenberg’s contribution. Lincoln’s promotional materials and final credits state that the film is based “in part” on Team of Rivals, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who also served as a historical advisor to Kushner. The problem, according to Noah, is that Goodwin’s book provides only a brief description of the most important historical events in the film—in particular, the legislative battles surrounding the 13th Amendment.

Vorenberg’s Final Freedom, which was a finalist for the 2002 Lincoln Prize, has been commended by many historians for demonstrating the crucial role of 13th Amendment in the abolition of slavery. Both scholarly works and popular narratives had often given the Emancipation Proclamation the principal role, though the wartime measure affected only those Confederate territories in active rebellion and outside of Union military control. It was the 13th Amendment—which, as the film shows, was from far from a foregone conclusionthat formally abolished slavery in all of the United States. (Yes, like almost everyone else at this school, I took Vorenberg’s blockbuster “Civil War and Reconstruction.”) Continue Reading


Neglected Holidays: Evacuation Day is today!

Ahhh Thanksgiving! Eating turkey, giving thanks for friends and family, and passing out on the couch like a football-watching beached whale. That’s fine, but personally I want more days centered around Americans being badass and climbing up flagpoles.

Ok ok, allow me to explain. When Lincoln created Thanksgiving in 1863, (there’s nothing Lincoln can’t do), Evacuation Day became obsolete as a holiday and faded by the turn of the 20th century. Before its untimely demise, Evacuation Day celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War: George “Gallant Stroll” Washington took back Manhattan and evacuated the last British troops from the island on November 25th, 1783. This is my appeal to bring back Evacuation Day because it’s crazy as fuck:

  • The last shot of the war was apparently fired on this day when a smelly redcoat shot a cannon into a jeering crowd on Staten Island.
  • By the time George Washington reached the Battery, (now Battery Park), British soldiers had nailed a British flag to a flagpole at the Battery and then greased the pole, proving their douchiness. The scrappy Americans nailed some wooden cleats to the pole and John Van Arsdale was able to switch out the Union Jack for the stars and stripes before the British fleet had sailed away. Continue Reading