“The White House as a Black Box”

The White House as a Black Box: Oral History and the Problem of Evidence in Presidential Sources by Russell Riley explores the varying degree of sources available from the White House in presidential studies. Riley’s main argument is that there is very little direct evidence available to the American public from the white house. Scholars of the field must rely on indirect evidence of outputs. These outputs include, official outputs, the press, internal paperwork, and memoirs. Official outputs include speech and press conferences that reveal very little about actual interactions within the white house. The press is the ultimate shaper of perception because it represents the face of the white house. The press has many implications along with it like low accuracy and no accountability. Next Riley discusses the issues and uses of internal documents/paperwork. For this, they are harder information for the public to see do to the strict accessibility of the E013233 from the Bush administration that required new procedures for president records to gain clearance. This resulted in a large restriction of the press. Following a discussion on the use of memoirs, Riley ends this essay on discussing the important uses of oral histories in this particular field. Since there is such little evidence from inside white house sources, the dependency and reliability of oral histories in conjunction with the available scholarship. However, like any other source there are issues of inaccuracy and biased motives. Regardless, oral histories help to substitute when there is a lack of information available in presidential studies.

“Bergamot Balm and Verbenas”

Bergamot Balm and Verbenas: The Public and Private Meaning of Ornamental Plants in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Midwest by Cheryl Lyon-Jenness explores the social uses of ornamental plants in the homes in mid-western families. To do this, Jenness explores the examples of three individuals/relatives in Michigan in order to evaluate the personal and societal significance of owning ornamental plants. All families shared similar lifestyles and interests in horticultural activities which is found in journals kept by all three families. In these journals/diaries, social life in the mid-west rural region is connected with ornamental plants. Ornamental plants became associated with social class and personal identification through the overall appearance and maintenance of these plants. Lawns represented what a family presented themselves as to society and how they lived their lives (according to “public norms and progressive values”). Maintenance of the lawns and plants required a lot of time and labor. However, rather than a burden, it was often a favorable pastime for these families and was used an aid during difficult times. As well, the exchange of plants among these families and the community built stronger community values and better access to these ornamental plants. However, Jenness argues that these plants symbolize far more personal meaning to the individuals than just simple public appearances.

“Rebuilding the Pueblo World” by Liebmann

In chapter five, Rebuilding the Pueblo World, Liebmann explores the lives of the Jemez Pueblos following the 1681 revolt against the Spaniards. The Jemez people completely burned their village as a form of revolt, burning down the church and their own homes. Liebmann evaluates the reasoning behind their willingness to destroy their homes is due to the fact that the Jemez people associate their village with the Spaniard and Franciscan colonizers who founded it. Following the burning of their village, the Jemez people went North and found a new establishment in a Weshulekwa territory (a mesa in-between canyons and rivers) called Patokwa. Due to the lack of both Spanish and Pueblo sources during this eleven-year gap following the revolt, archaeology is an important source contributing to our understanding of the rebuilding of the Pueblo world. Liebmann’s work in high-resolution topographical mapping reveals a lot about the society in which the Jemez have constructed their villages revealing a “patrilineal descent and patrilocal residency patterns” among Eastern pueblos. As well, findings of old pottery and ceramics also aid in understanding the large-scale, organized communal migration. These villages reveal that these societies had centralized leadership, planned layouts of their villages, and organized work/labor groups. Liebmann argues that this is in large part due to the revivalism and nativism exhibited by Po’pay in the revolts beginning in 1680.

“Introduction” by Liebmann

In the introduction of Revolt: An Archaeological History of Pueblo Resistance and Revitalization in 17th Century New Mexico, author Matthew Liebmann explores the archaeological and anthropological story of Pueblo Indians. To begin, Liebmann details the Spanish conquest of the Pueblo Indians at the Jemez village of Astialakwa. During the revolt, versions of Spanish religion and Pueblo religion is prominent. This, Liebmann explains, is also seen through other Native American revolts. Liebmann explores the “failures” of other Native American revolts and how they have come to represent something different from different perspectives and aspects. These representations are coming from interpretations based mainly on physical artifacts and oral traditions passed down by generations of Pueblos. However, a big gap in the story is the lack of written records or sources from the Pueblos. Liebmann argues that the written perspective is solely from the colonists which creates a diverged story line. This is considered a great part in studying the field due to the significance and importance of archeological evidence. Liebmann strongly encourages scholars and historians to further use material culture as useful sources to look to the past.

“Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom”

Hanna explores the map created by Fredericksburg slave John Washington. In this article, Hanna shows what we have learned and read for last class concerning the historical uses of maps as valuable pieces of historical sources. To begin, the author uses the analyses conducted by other historians, in which their own personal interpretations were placed into their work, to show the true intention and historical meaning behind Washington’s map. While it looked like a non-logical geographic map, Washington’s map reflected the average life of a slave in Fredericksburg, marking where the freedom spots of the city were located. On Washington’s map and in his memoir, his representation of Fredericksburg indicates the hard times that African Americans faced during this time period, offering a piece of historical social memory and textual representation. However, historians look at Washington’s work as a rather unique slave account due to his ability to explain his surroundings as a “planter landscape” and not “slave landscape.” Hanna argues that while the motive of Washington’s memoir is largely unknown, his map was likely created to go along with his memoir to offer a view of what Washington’s Fredericksburg looked like.

“Text and Contexts”

“Text and Contexts” by J.B. Harley explores the advantages and disadvantages in Historians using maps. To begin, Harley explains that maps are considered in the field of historians as: “slippery, dangerous, and unreliable” by their low classification of nonverbal sources. While maps are (and have been proven to be) successful in understanding United States history through its discovery, expansion, etc. they are not useful in studying social history. Harley discusses the potential reasons as to why maps are often seen as unreliable and neglectful sources. One was through the individual historians’ interpretations of maps. It is argued that the intended purpose of maps is a reflective mirror of real world geography. However, Harley asserts that maps should be seen more as texts as other nonverbal sources are than as a mirror. This is due to both the detailed historical analysis that is done to the maps and the complexity of map making and the intrinsic value cartographers present their maps to be. Next, Harley reviews the process in which historians review cartographic work and the context conducted on cartographers, other maps, and society. To summarize, Harley establishes that while there is plenty of literature on early map interpretation, it has yet to be placed in a broader framework to understand the complexities and potential benefits in using maps as historical texts.

“The Port: Shipping and Trade”

In “the Port: Shipping and Trade”, Alejandro de la Fuente explores the various ways in which Havana is a complex center of shipping, commercial, and military commerce. De la Fuente begins by briefly explain the three main types of trade circuits conducted in Havana. The first, and most important, is the transoceanic circuit. This circuit includes the interaction in the Atlantic among Havana, Europe, and Africa, the largest geographic circuit. The next trade circuit is the intercolonial circuit that links between other Caribbean colonial ports. The last trade circuit is the insular circuit which involves interactions within central and eastern Cuba. De la Fuente then compares the different circuits by using references of merchandise and vessels traded and moved along these different circuits. Along the transoceanic, Havana experienced far more imports than exports. This circuit experienced the trading of dyes, medicine, hides, wine, cloths, weapons, and steel. In intercolonial trade, food was the main form of trade among the colonies in which Mexico and Florida played a key part. Lastly, Insular trade also involved food, but it was more influenced by Trinidadian food. De la Fuente uses these examples to highlight the importance and complexities of Havana’s massive trading and port center and how shipping has influenced its establishment of Havana as a major influential colony.

“History and the Internet”

The article “History and the Internet” by Presnell explores the impact and integration of the internet into the field of historical research. Presnell begins with discussing the different ways the internet is useful in overall historical research. The internet contains access too several primary sources, bibliographies, government documents, secondary sources, and other various historical scholarship and documents. Presnell believes that effective research techniques will allow historians to use these resources as a way to conduct sufficient historical research. Presnell emphasizes the use of search directories to highlight the effective steps in conducting effective and beneficial research. Another way the internet is beneficial for the historian is through the communication networks it establishes among historians in online communities such as H-Net. Finally, Presnell uses a research topic example of Japanese Americans and Internment Camps to layout and describe the steps of how a historian or historical researcher should conduct historical research. Understanding the internet and the uses of it are crucial to effective research.

“The Embodied Imagination in Recent Writings on Food History.”

“The Embodied Imagination in Recent Writings on Food History” by Jeffrey Pilcher explores the historical study of food and the new cultural history associated with it. In this reading, Pilcher explains the new upcoming scholarship developing on food history and the interpretive approaches taken by many young scholars. The growth of this new interdisciplinary came from the desire of wanting to know what we eat by understanding the purity and healthfulness of the food of our societies. To do this, historians began looking towards common trends of the past for the answers. Pilcher associates the major themes and findings that all fields share in common were social distinctions, industrial transformation, and food politics. All of these highlighted a common history of food changing patterns to represent social order in societies of the past. For example, they can be the changing of taste that reflects a move from the aristocracy. An overall social concern of how food is produced and by the means it is produced reflects the beginnings of food history.

“Source Criticism: The Great Tradition” and “Historical Interpretation: The Traditional Basics”

Source Criticism: The Great Tradition excerpt explores the importance of defining and interpreting the where, when, who, and authenticity questions historians ask when analyzing and interpreting a historical source to determine it’s intended meaning. The authors go through 7 processes in determining the overall quality of a source. 1. Is the genealogy of the document in which determines if the source is the original or a copy. 2. Is the genesis of a document which determines the significance of the document, or the who, where, and when questions. 3. Is the originality of the document. 4. Interpretation of the document. 5. Authorial authority is the author’s role in the historical document. 6. The competence of the observer which is the trustworthiness of the person analyzing the document. And finally, 7. The trustworthiness of the observer in which historians fully engage in studying or learning more about the author of a piece of historical document.

Historical Interpretation: The Traditional Basics follows the previous chapter on source criticism. This chapter explores the process historians take in choosing among various sources. The first process is comparing sources. This step undergoes the process of selecting among various sources to encourage the use of various interpretations through source comparisons. The next step is evidentiary satisfaction where historians determine the most appropriate amount of evidence to support their argument. The next and final step involves the relevant and necessary facts required to supplement or prove an argument.