AHA Today Blog Contest Posts

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A key skill for 21st-century historians, whether they work in the professoriate, public history, government, publishing, or beyond, is the ability to communicate through a variety of media to different audiences. Many historians have turned to blogging to reach a broad public, and the success of historical writing online demonstrates a certain hunger for historians’ point of view.

Wrapping Up the 2016 AHA Today Summer Blog Contest

This summer, three history graduate students presented their research on subjects as varied as plantation architecture, gift exchange between Muslims and Christians in the early modern Mediterranean, and Reconstruction politics in Mississippi on the pages of AHA Today. Our bloggers talked about the challenges of doing research—from studying decrepit buildings with little or no historical record to discovering that the central figure of their research was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. They described cross-cultural interactions between groups that are traditionally seen as having little in common and unearthed the messy histories of slavery and racial politics in the South.

Hero, Villain, or Anti-Hero? Archival Records and Dealing with the Contradictions of the Past

I was wrapping up the second to last chapter of my MA thesis when I received a call from a local historian from Holly Springs, Mississippi. During our conversation, my colleague read out an excerpt from a short biographical sketch about Dr. William M. Compton that she’d found in a local history book published in the 1930s. What struck me about the sketch was that it named Compton as the founder and “Grand Cyclops” of Marshall County’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Searching for the Quotidian in the Archives: Trade, Fraud, and Intercultural Relations in the Early Modern Mediterranean

This is the final post in a series by Jesse Hysell, one of this year’s AHA Today blog contest winners. His posts examine material exchanges between Venice and Egypt in the early modern period. Previous Posts include: Cultural Encounters and Material Exchanges in the Venetian ArchivesThe Politics of Pepper: Deciphering a Venetian-Mamluk Gift Exchange, and The Gift Thieves: Interpreting a Scandal in Early Modern Venice

Historical Hat-Trick: Using Documents, Architecture, and Archaeology at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

This is the final post in a series by Erin Holmes, one of this year’s AHA Today blog contest winners. Her posts “read” buildings and plantation landscapes across Virginia, South Carolina, and Barbados as historical documents. Previous Posts include: Visiting the Past and the Places in Between: Buildings and Landscapes as Historical DocumentsChange over Time Written in the Historic Architecture of Barbadosand The Other Drayton Hall: South Carolina Plantation Architecture in the Documentary Record.

Scalawags and Scandal-Mongers: Intra-party Rivalry and the Complex World of Reconstruction Politics

On a warm afternoon in late February 1871, Dr. William M. Compton found himself in what he would later call “a fix.” Before him stood his wife, Ernestine, furious and demanding to know what he was doing napping on a young nurse’s bed. To make matters worse, she was confronting him in front of an entire ward of psychiatric patients, staff members, and a party of elite Jacksonians who were touring the asylum.

The Gift Thieves: Interpreting a Scandal in Early Modern Venice

This is the third post in a series by Jesse Hysell, one of this year’s AHA Today blog contest winners. His posts examine material exchanges between Venice and Egypt in the early modern period. Previous Posts include: Cultural Encounters and Material Exchanges in the Venetian Archives and The Politics of Pepper: Deciphering a Venetian-Mamluk Gift Exchange

My last post examined how diplomatic gift exchange between Venice and Cairo in the early modern period enabled communication and cooperation between their rulers. As I continued my research into these practices, my findings led me to confront an inevitable question: What happened to ambassadorial gifts after they had changed hands?

The Other Drayton Hall: South Carolina Plantation Architecture in the Documentary Record

In 1861, former South Carolina governor William Bull burned down his house because he was worried that the Yankees might get it. In studying Barbados, the American South, and the Greater Caribbean, I’ve become familiar with the ways the environment slowly chips away at the things that humans construct. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, termites, encroaching vines, and the simple decay of organic matter often make investigating the material past difficult. In their own way, however, human beings are more destructive—the house that Bull burned down had stood in that spot for more than 130 years.