The White House as a Black Box

Russell L. Riley’s article explores the problems created by the public’s limited access to presidential documents at the White House. He begins by referencing the white house as the “black box”, which is a reference to the Soviet Union during the cold war. This reference is used to introduce his focus on the secrecy of the White House of which senior executive officers no longer keep written records on presidential actions. In fact the last presidential records in an archive are from Jimmy Carter’s presidency. However, Riley depicts how modern presidents often donated their papers to National Archives once leaving office, but in the wake of the Watergate scandal this changed. The Watergate scandal led to the development of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 in order to give the public access to presidential documents. However, President George W. Bush then altered this act. Riley goes into discussing the significance of oral history because in this case they provide valuable information in concern to the White House that written records no longer provide. The most common oral history provided by the White House is through the press, official statements by the president, internal documents, and memoirs. Riley shows that with the significance of oral history as a source there can be problems with oral history due to time lapse of which information can be forgotten or left out.

Reading the Accidental Archive

Joseph Heathcott’s article examines the home of a middle-class family named, the Aufderheide, in early twentieth century St. Louis, Missouri. Heathcott explores the artifacts left behind by the Aufderheide family in order to understand their family history but as well as the relationship between the artifacts and architectural history of the historical home. It is very interesting how what most people consider trash is an archive of history from this family. I find it fascinating how ticket stubs, newspaper pieces, receipts, and pieces of letters were saved over the years by falling out of pant pockets and landing on the cavity of the laundry chute. Heathcott states that the significance of these artifacts is how the connection between the households’ identity and St. Louis address broader themes of class, gender, and ethnic relations during the early twentieth century in St. Louis. The artifacts also bring up social, economic, and political transformations during that period of time. These “accidental archives” show how this home was considered modern and the Aufderheide were a middle-class German family. However, it is interesting how Heathcott discovered that the Aufderheide and many of their neighboring German families were under scrutiny for being “radical” Germans. Furthermore, Heathcotts discovery shows how one family’s belongings can be interpreted to represent the history of St. Louis as well as how their role shaped urban culture at that time.

Liberian Chapter 5

In “Chapter 5: Rebuilding the Pueblo World, 1681-1683” Liebmann examines what happened not only during the Revolts between the Spanish and Pueblos but as well as how they Pueblos lived during the aftermath of the revolts by focusing on the Jemez. Liebmann begins by discussing how the Jemez set their village on fire as a precautionary measure as well as a form of uprising towards the Spanish. This revolt is a powerful way for the Jemez to rid them of Spanish influence because they Spanish helped built houses in their village. Liebmann then explores the significance of archaeology in understanding the Pueblo Revolts with the Spanish. However, he clarifies that the archaeology from Pueblo groups also provides a way to interpret and understand their history. Archaeological from the Patokwa gives insight into how the Jemez lived after they burned down their village. Liebmann discusses how architecture at Patokwa shows what society looked like in terms of living standards, defense strategies, and the amount of people in their community. By using archaeological techniques such as the ones used to understand Patokwa provide historians with an understanding of Pueblo history that is far more complex compared to information documents provide.

Matthew Liebmann Introduction

Matthew Liebmann’s “Introduction” examines the 17th Century revolts of the Pueblo Indians against the Spanish. Liebmann begins by discussing the prophet Po’pay who joined forces with the Pueblos to seek out revenge against the “foreigners” known as the Spanish. Po’pay shows through his prophecy how the Pueblos wanted a future that their ancestors had and not one with European influence. Liebmann prophecy influenced the joining of Pueblo Indians with the Navajo and Apache allies to defeat the settling of the Spanish colonists. Liebmann then defines how “Revolt: An Archaeological History” is a different interpretation of the Pueblo revolts because he focuses on the failures of their uprisings. However, Liebmann focus on unique sources such as artifacts, architecture, and rock art in reference to the Pueblo Indians and their revolts. He depicts how the written documents by colonist are an unreliable source for understanding the Spanish involvement in the revolts. However, archaeological perspectives from artifacts provide new interpretations in the field of understanding the Pueblo Revolts. Liebmann concludes by praising the use of material culture in historiography to further understanding and develop new interpretations of the past.

Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom

Stephen P. Hanna’s Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom examines the life of John Washington, a former slave. Hanna writes about Washington based on the map he leaves and the memoir Washington created. This map is a primary source of not only Fredericksburg, Virginia but as well as a source of understanding Washington’s efforts after the war in fighting for emancipation. Hanna focuses on how Washington’s map is often dismissed by historians because they see it as nothing but a drawing of Fredericksburg with points around different places within the city. Hanna argues that this map needs to be looked at twice by historians because it is more than just a bad drawing of Fredericksburg. This map provides a perspective of Fredericksburg from a slave based on their experiences at the time. The places noted on the map represent places Washington travelled to or played a significant part of his life. Historians overlook this map because they see it as highly inaccurate since it does not represent all aspects of Fredericksburg. However, Washington did not intend for this map to be accurate. He created this map as a representation of what Fredericksburg looked like from his perspective as well as to show places that had meaning to him within the city. This article shows how maps can have some form historical value in understanding people, culture, or what historical places may have looked like at one time.

Texts and Contexts

Chapter one, “Texts and Contexts” by J.B Harley discusses how the use of maps has been looked down upon; however, maps have some historical significance for historians. Harley begins by discussing how maps are classified as unreliable sources. However, historians interpret maps as texts just like signs, paintings, films etc. By interpreting maps as nonverbal texts, scholars can see the individual minds and cultural values around at the time of the maps creation. Although this interpretation gives insight to a specific culture or societies life at a specific time, it is hard to understand the cartographer’s purpose of creating the map. Academic, propaganda, and representational, are the three types of maps that help historians determine whether or not a source is reliable. Harley shows how maps cannot be used for social history because they only provide factual information about a specific place or culture. Even though maps only provide factual information and are often unreliable, it is important to understand that they are historical sources that scholars often use in their research.

The Port: Shipping and Trading

De La Fuente discuses in this chapter the significance of Havana as a port city for shipping and trade in the transatlantic. Havana was a great port for the Spanish due to its location in terms of being close to other Spanish trading colonies as well as close to America. However, the biggest factor in terms of location of Cuba, as a port is its direct location in the Gulf of Mexico of which its current provided faster travel for ships. De la Fuente explains how his focus is on the ships that involve trading with the Spanish, but he also recognizes the ships that stopped in Cuba as a stopover. The intercolonial trade is examined by De La Fuente to show how the local economy of Havana and Cuba grew due to the port. These regional trading centers show how significant Havana was in the reexportation of colonial commodities. The commodities that moved through Havana included spices, wine, and bread. Each commodity was traded based on if it was international or inter-colonial. These commodities allowed for Havana as well as other parts of Cuba to thrive as a local city through the importing and exporting of commodities, which is what De La Fuente wants readers to understand.

Alejandro de la Fuente, et al., “Introduction,” “Notes,” (excerpt) and Bibliography

Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century by Alejandro de la Fuente discusses the significance of Havana as a port for Spain. De la Fuente begins the book by explaining how Havana became an important port for Spain. Jacques de Sores placed Cuba under siege resulting in the people of Cuba to try and overthrow Sores to gain back their country. However, at the time Cuba was owned by Spain but the destruction caused by Sores forced Spain to realize how important the location of Cuba was. Spain had previously seen no use to Cuba due to it not producing any major exports or wealth. This destruction caused by Sores made Spain understand that Cuba would be a great port for their ships in travel to nearby colonies. After this Havana became the capital of Cuba and the country kept thriving under Spain as on their most important shipyards. De la Fuentes’s brief explanation on how Havana became a significant port for Spain provided a great introduction into his argument of how Havana is poorly represented as a significant port city under historiography. De la Fuente argues for scholars to understand Cuba’s relationship with the greater world in order to see the significance of Havana as a port city in making Cuba one of the fastest growing cities. The primary sources such as wills and city records provided by De la Fuente were put together well and excellent sources for his argument because they explain what early Cuban society looked like at the time of the ports creation.

History and the Internet

History and the Internet by Jenny L. Presnell discusses how the Internet has impacted the field of historical research. Presnell begins by discussing how great of a resource the Internet is in providing an immense amount of primary sources. However, she assures that people take advantage of the Internet posting questionable facts that might not be valuable. The problem with the Internet is how people edit others writings online which makes many online sources unreliable. It is important as a student who researches as well as for scholars to learn how to properly evaluate the reliability of websites for their research. Presnell provides a guideline of what to follow as a researcher using the Internet. She begins by showing how the Internet is appropriate for research when looking for primary sources, bibliographies, organizations and government documents, reference sources, and secondary sources. Next, she provides tips on how to search for topics because of the large amount of unnecessary sites that appear through search engines. It is essential to use concrete words when searching the web, use more than one search engine, and to use the advance search options in order to narrow down reliable sources. The Internet is a huge part of how students research. Therefore, this chapter will be useful for my research project by understanding what to look for in a reliable site and how to get the best sources through the Internet.

Food Historiography

The Embodied Imagination in Recent Writings on Food History by Jeffrey M. Pilcher discusses the growth of interest by scholars in food historiography. The focus is particularly on how recent scholarships are interested in connecting how culture and history influence interpretation of food. Pilcher begins by stating that the themes of food historiography include social distinction, industrial transformation, and food politics. The “embodied imagination” is emphasized by Pilcher in discussing the emotional connections historians study in order to understand the response food has on people in terms of culture. Pilcher then goes on to discuss the significance of how taste changes over time. For example, Pilcher discusses how the Columbian Exchange and colonial expansions created a shift in tastes for American settlers. He shows how important it is for historians to recognize shifts in cultural tastes in order to understand how taste has divided ethnic communities. Pilcher also discuses the theme of how recent scholarship has tried to understand what has been gained and lost in food studies through industrialization. He points out how consumers have been distance from the source of their food due to most food in society today travels large distances instead of being locally grown. In relating the need for purity within the food industry Pilcher discusses Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to show the transition industrial foods have had over time. He shows that by having historians focus on the cultural and material perspectives of food over time has allowed historians to understand the shortcomings in the food industry and how they have changed. Pilcher ends his review by discussing hunger. He explains how hunger has divine, moral and social meanings. For example, event though hunger in terms of the Irish potato famine was seen as a collective social problem, there were groups such as female saints who viewed hunger as a moral force by the church. Furthermore, Pilcher looks into the areas of growth within recent food scholarship in order to show the effects of culture and society on our understanding of food.