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Made Possible by NEH,

National Endowment for the Humanities

Hosted by LCP,

The Library Company of Philadelphia

Sponsored by SHEAR,

Society of Historians of the Early American Republic

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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



June 19 to July 14, 2011

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Directors: John L. Larson and Michael A. Morrison, Purdue University

At the heart of the story of the early United States lies the problem of governance in a new self-governing republic.  In whose hands should we lodge power?  For what purpose?  In whose interest?   These questions remained profoundly unsettled in the early republic.  Every action, election, and policy struggle took on a second dimension because it necessarily set a precedent for how this self-governing country would work.  Liberating people from the restraints of customary obedience and social control can be a scary thing, and antebellum Americans pursued it on a continental scale.  As the world’s first modern “new nation,” the United States could follow no blueprint nor consult any relevant predecessors as its four million people embarked on their project of nation-building. 

It is our intention in this seminar to suggest coherent approaches to modern scholarship by exploring the problem of governance in the early republic within this context of an experiment in self-government.  We pose two framing questions:  “Why create the American republic?” and then, “Why tear it apart?”  Between lies “Tocqueville’s America”—the broad field of antebellum American history and culture.  We will explore this large field topically, looking at the problem of governance from the perspective of leadership (top down) and from the perspective of popular demands for participation and reform (bottom up).  For more details click on the buttons to the left.

This seminar is designed for college and university teachers in history or government whose research interests lie in the early republic and whose writing and teaching agenda will be furthered by a month of directed study in Philadelphia, in the midst of what is arguably the richest single congeries of early American research collections in the country.  Two spaces are reserved for advanced graduate students.

For more detailed information, please go to the Director’s Letter.

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