Like most things taught to us about the US in grade school, a moment’s thought will reveal that the idea that the US was founded by Puritans is baloney. The “Puritans” settled a relatively small area, New England. At the same time, areas to the south were settled by English people with different attitudes, quite a mix of different attitudes. Then of course there was the huge influx of African peoples with slavery. And huge amounts of growth later in the 18th and 19th centuries as immigrants from other European nations arrived. The idea of “Puritan founders” got the biggest boost with anti-Communist and other forms of nationalism in the '40s forward. I keep using scare quotes around “Puritans” because the popular conception of them is not very accurate. Really, they’re pretty alien and hard for us to understand. Certainly their attitudes toward sex were rather different that the popular conception. You could sleep together before marriage in some communities/households (not uncommon). And marriage/birth records show that many babies were born considerably less than nine months after marriage. This is getting random, but my kids are starting to get nuts, um, and, oh yeah, if you read some of the texts really pushing the idea of Puritan founders, you can easily notice all the cognitive dissonance and omissions that indicate something really strange is going on, as when Perry Miller setting out to write on of the big texts on this, Errand in the Wilderness, describes his early days in the Congo, he recalls oil drums floating out of the Congo. Now, given that those trails were occupied by Africans and were (literally) littered on the sides by African bones, it’s a helluva an omission to figure the drums as floating along. Anyway, that’s a pretty common example. If you Google “Perry Miller Congo” you can get a broader discussion. Sorry to be so long-winded. This was my doctoral work up until the guy I wanted to work with got hired away to Princeton.
Oh, that was ages ago. I had vacillated between early American in general and Modern and contemporary poetics. I picked early American because there were more jobs in it. But when the guy I really liked left, I was left with one really good prof and one really nasty prof to work with, so I went back to my first love, and wrote a dissertation on American poetry and poetics. I hope to get the book proposal out this summer.
don’t forget also the effect of having huge populations wiped out by plagues left behind by the earlier travelers to the massachussetts area. the pilgrims et al. were confronted by swaths of cleared land used for agriculture by the natives. i really wonder how the whole colonization thing might have been different if the natives had been as tolerant of smallpox as the europeans.
I was lucky to land a tenure-track job. I was on the job market for five years. During that time, searches for generalist positions went from having 250-300 applicants to 500-800 applicants, depending on the location. I ended up in Alabama. At least I’m well-paid. I work with historians (friends on committees and such). My university is very troubled, and it’s not well-ranked. But my colleagues (in history) are from places like Brown, Rutgers, Washington University, as well as from places like Swamp University of Podunk Junction.
The consensus of friends who have been on hiring committees is that getting a job in the liberal arts is more or less like winning the lottery. There are just so many good people looking for jobs, and there are so few tenure-track openings. I’m sorry if I’m the bearer of bad news, if you’re not yet on the market. If you’re headed that way, check out the academic jobs wikis, if you haven’t already. It’s good to get the scoop. You can save a lot of time by not applying to places that do things like treat tenure track jobs as VAPs or that are running fake searches when there’s already an inside candidate.
Congrats on the tenure track job! Five years seems like it’s common.
Oh, no, I’m in my 6th year and this is a major topic of conversation amongst those of us going on or about to go on the job market. At this point, I’m not at all under the illusion that a tenure track job will just land in my lap.
I’m actually thinking of alternatives to academia - though I sort of feel like my department did a piss-poor job of preparing us for those jobs, even as they paid it lip service. I suppose the historic preservation program we have does a better job in preparing their students for non-academic jobs than the larger department does. I think how well you do on the job market also has something to do with the amount of work your professor is willing to do on your behalf. it tends to be a problem with some profs, that they won’t go out of their way to help their students get a job.
Also, this is me, anytime I think about the history job market:
Several people I know either bailed at ABD and went into library science or finished and then went for an MLS. They have jobs. There’s also work at places like ACT or NCS, if you want to inhabit the belly of the Beast. Or you could just get an MBA and fake your credentials and become an administrator.