Show cover of Conversations at the Washington Library

Conversations at the Washington Library

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world.


NOW AVAILABLE: Inventing the Presidency
Now Available on all platforms! In this new podcast from the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, we'll explore George Washington as both President and precedent. From the very origins of the US presidency at the Constitutional Convention to Washington’s final warnings in his Farewell Address, we will break down how one man shaped the Presidency—and the many times that it could have all fallen apart. Learn more at ⁠
01:49 3/12/24
229. A Final Conversation with Dr. James Ambuske
In this final episode of Conversations at the Washington Library, Drs. Anne Fertig and Alexandra Montgomery bid farewell to former Digital Historian and host, Dr. James Ambuske, through a retrospective of his time and work at the George Washington Podcast Network.
53:44 5/8/23
228. Editing the Adams Family Papers with Dr. Sara Georgini
The Adams Family is one of the more prominent families in American history. They were at the center of the American Revolution, they helped create a new republic, shaped the young nation’s foreign policy, and later were central to the development of the history profession. Fortunately, we know much about their lives because of the countless letters and diaries they’ve left us. And it is up to a team of editors at the Massachusetts Historical Society to help us make sense of it all. On today’s show, Dr. Sara Georgini joins Jim Ambuske to talk about what it’s like to edit the Adams Family Papers and the questions they help us answer. Georgini is Series Editor for The Papers of John Adams, and she is also the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family, published by Oxford University Press in 2018. We’re joined today by co-host Dr. Anne Fertig, the Washington Library’s Digital Projects Editor.
43:20 11/28/22
227. Welcoming a Deserving Brother with Mark Tabbert
In 1752, George Washington joined the Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was just twenty years old. Despite his early interest in masonry, Washington was not as active in the organization as some might imagine, but Masonic Lodges became important sites of social gathering for men in early America. And while masons and masonic rituals played important roles in the American Revolution and in the early days of the Republic, you won’t find any conspiracy theories here. On today’s show, Mark Tabbert joins Jim Ambusketo discuss his new book, A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry, published by the University of Virginia Press in 2022. Tabbert is Director of Archives and Exhibits at The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.
25:49 11/14/22
226. Cross-examining Washington's Heir with Prof. Gerard Magliocca
When George Washington wrote his final will in the months before he died in December 1799, he named Bushrod Washington as heir to his papers and to Mount Vernon. He took possession of his uncle’s Virginia plantation when Martha Washington passed away in 1802. But Bushrod was not as interested in agriculture as George had been. He was a lawyer who later became an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, where he became a staunch ally of Chief Justice John Marshall. Yet, like George, Bushrod owned numerous enslaved people and became one of the founding members of the American Colonization Society, an organization dedicated to resettling freed people in Africa. On today’s show, Professor Gerard Magliocca joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, Washington’s Heir: The Life of Justice Bushrod Washington, published by Oxford University Press in 2022. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University.
42:45 10/31/22
225. Doing Public History with Dr. Anne Fertig
Why is the way that we remember the past oftentimes different than historical reality? And how can we use public history to inform conversations in the present about events that took place centuries earlier? On today’s episode, Jim Ambuske introduces you to Dr. Anne Fertig, our newest colleague here at the Washington Library, who will help us think through some of these questions. Dr. Fertig is a specialist in eighteenth century literature, historical memory, and women’s history. She’s the founder and co-director of Jane Austen & Co., a lecture series about Jane Austen and her broader world, and she is our new Digital Projects Editor at the Washington Library.
27:16 10/17/22
224. Unpacking the Slave Empire with Dr. Padraic Scanlan
In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the British Empire began dismantling the slave system that had helped to build it. Parliament banned the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, and in 1833 the government outlawed slavery itself, accomplishing through legislative action what the United States would later achieve in part by the horrors of civil war. Abolition has long been a cause célèbre in the British imagination, with men like William Wilberforce receiving credit for moving the empire to right a moral wrong. Yet as our guest today argues, there were other, equally powerful motivations beyond morality that fueled British efforts to abolish slavery. On today’s show, Dr. Padraic Scanlan joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, Slave Empire: How Slavery Made Modern Britain. Scanlan is an Assistant Professor of History at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto.  And as you’ll hear, there was as much money to be made in the abolition of slavery as there was in slavery itself.
39:49 6/24/22
223. Attending a Lecture on Female Genius with Dr. Mary Sarah Bilder
In May 1787, George Washington arrived in Philadelphia to attend the Constitutional Convention. One afternoon, as he waited for the other delegates to show up so the convention could begin, Washington accompanied some ladies to a public lecture at the University of Pennsylvania by a woman named Eliza Harriot Barons O’Conner. Eliza Harriot, as she signed her name, had led a transatlantic life steeped in revolutionary ideas. On that May afternoon she argued in favor of the radical notion of Female Genius, the idea that women were intellectually equal to men and deserved both equal opportunity for education and political representation. On today’s show, we dive deeper into Harriot’s story as Dr. Mary Sarah Bilder, who joins Jim Ambuske to discuss her latest book Female Genius: Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution, published by the University of Virginia Press in 2022. Bilder is the Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. And as you’ll learn, Harriot’s performance that day may have inspired the new Constitution’s gender-neutral language.
41:47 5/19/22
Introducing Intertwined Stories: Finding Hercules Posey
We're delighted to bring you one of the bonus episodes from our other podcast, Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In Intertwined Stories, we're featuring extended interviews with some of the expert contributors to the main Intertwined show. Today, you'll hear part of the conversation that Jim Ambuske and Jeanette Patrick had with Ramin Ganeshram about Hercules Posey. Posey was the Washington’s enslaved chef, and for more than 200 years old we didn’t know happened to him after he self-emancipated on George Washington’s birthday - February 22, 1797. But now we do. We hope you enjoy this episode, and to hear more Intertwined Stories, search for your favorite podcast app for Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington’s Mount Vernon or find us at
19:33 4/6/22
222. Winning a "Compleat Victory" at Saratoga with Dr. Kevin Weddle
The Battle of Saratoga in September and October of 1777 was a decisive turning point in the American War for Independence. The American victory over the British in northern New York put a stopper to London’s dreams of a swift end to the war, and convinced the French to openly declare their support for the colonial rebels. It was, in the words of one American participant, a "Compleat Victory."  Yet, if we focus on the battles alone, we lose site of the entire campaign, the colorful personalities on both sides who developed the strategy, and the key role that geography played in shaping the choices that field commanders and civilian authorities made as their armies traversed forests, lakes, and rivers.  On today’s show, Dr. Kevin Weddle joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, The Compleat Victory: Saratoga and the American Revolution, published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Weddle is Professor of Military Theory and Strategy at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and he’s a West Point graduate who retired as a colonel after 28 years of active services in the United States Army. And as you’ll learn, the Battle of Saratoga was but one single turning point in a series of contingent moments that reshaped the course of the war.
47:43 3/25/22
221. Reading the Political Poetry of Hannah Lawrence Schieffelin with Dr. Kait Tonti
Hannah Lawrence Schieffelin was an American poet who rhymed about some of the most important issues facing the early United States in the eighteenth century, including the British occupation of New York City during the American Revolution, the debate over the gradual abolition of slavery in the early days of the republic, and the legacy of George Washington. Schieffelin sat at the heart of the New York literary scene in these years, but until recently, most of her manuscript poetry remained undigitized and inaccessible to readers. Thanks to Dr. Kait Tonti and her colleagues at the New York Public Library, now you can read Schieffelin’s poetry, too. Tonti is an expert on early American women's life-writing and poetry. She was also the 2021 Omohundro Institute-Mount Vernon Digital Collections Fellow, which supported the digitization of Schieffelin’s poetry. She joins Jim Ambuske today to talk about Schieffelin’s life and the politics of her poetry, especially her poetical confrontation over slavery and Washington’s reputation with a mysterious opponent who may not be so mysterious after all. View Schieffelin's manuscripts at the New York Public Library here. View Tonti's digital exhibit here.
55:17 3/9/22
220. Educating Early Americans with Drs. Mark Boonshoft and Andrew O'Shaughnessy
In eighteenth-century America,  you would’ve had little opportunity for formal schooling or an advanced education. Unless you were among the elite or at least of some means, your chances of attending a local academy or Harvard College weren’t great. But the American Revolution ushered in a new era of education in the United States that paved the way for the educational opportunities we take for granted today. Education became seen as central to the survival of the republic, with local communities, states, and the new federal government all interested in expanding educational opportunities for some Americans, though not as much for others. And in the 1820s, Thomas Jefferson would embark on last great project of his life – the founding of the University of Virginia – which he hoped would preserve the meaning of the Revolution as he understood it. On today’s show, we’re fortunate to have two old chums return to the program to talk about the crucial role of education in early America. Dr. Mark Boonshoft is the Executive Director of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and he is the author of Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2020. We’re joined by Dr. Andrew O’Shaughnessy, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, who recently authored The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University, published by the University of Virginia Press in 2021.
63:45 2/18/22
219. Negotiating Federal-State Relations with Dr. Grace Mallon
For years after the ratification of the Constitution, Americans debated how the Federal Government and the several states should relate to each other, and work together, to form a more perfect union. The success, if not the survival, of the new republic depended on these governments cooperating on any number of issues, from customs enforcement to Native American policy. But where there was collaboration there was also friction among them over matters like state sovereignty, slavery, and land. Unsurprisingly, many of the same questions about government relations that American leaders like George Washington or Gouvernor Morris faced in the eighteenth century remain evergreen in the twenty-first. On today’s show, Dr. Grace Mallon joins Jim Ambuske to chat about how the federal government and the states did, or did not, get along in the republic’s early days, and how personal relationships among American leaders often meant the difference between policy victories or defeats. Mallon recently received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford and she is the incoming Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University. She also hosts the "Conventions" podcast on constitutional history for the Quill Project at Pembroke College, Oxford. Look for it where ever fine podcasts are available.  About Our Guest: Grace Mallon received her doctorate in History from Oxford University in 2021. Her dissertation project explored the relationship between the state and federal governments in the early American republic and its effect on policy. She is the incoming Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University, and is a 2021-22 Washington Library Fellow. She hosts the 'Conventions' podcast on constitutional history for the Quill Project at Pembroke College, Oxford.
44:08 2/2/22
218. Finding Washington at the Plow with Dr. Bruce Ragsdale
In the 1760s, tobacco was one of Virginia’s chief exports. But George Washington turned away from the noxious plant and began dreaming of wheat and a more profitable future. Washington became enamored with new ideas powering the agricultural revolution in Great Britain and set out to implement this new form of husbandry back home at Mount Vernon. His quest to become a gentleman farmer reshaped Mount Vernon’s landscape and altered the lives of the plantation’s enslaved community, and his own ideas about slavery, forever. On today’s show, Dr. Bruce Ragsdale joins Jim Ambuske to chat about his new book, Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery, published by Harvard University Press in 2021. Ragsdale is the retired Director of the Federal Judicial History Office and he’s one of the leading experts on agriculture in the early republic. And as you’ll hear, Washington the revolutionary farmer had more in common with Farmer George in England, that is King George III, than you might think. Please take a moment to rate and review the show on your favorite podcast app. It helps other people find us and the new insights our guests bring to the table each episode.
44:33 1/20/22
217. Exploring Star Territory with Dr. Gordon Fraser
In the 18th and 19th centuries, North Americans looked up at the sky in wonder at the cosmos and what lay beyond earth’s atmosphere. But astronomers like Benjamin Banneker, Georgia surveyors, Cherokee storytellers, and government officials also saw in the stars ways to master space on earth by controlling the heavens above. And print technology became a key way for Americans of all stripes to find ways to understand their own place in the universe and their relationship to each other. On today’s show, Dr. Gordon Fraser joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, Star Territory: Printing the Universe in Nineteenth-Century America, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2021. Fraser is a Lecturer and Presidential Fellow in American Studies, University of Manchester in England, and Fraser and Ambuske were joined today by Dr. Alexandra Montgomery as guest co-host, who is heading up the Washington Library’s ARGO initiative. And yes, they talk about aliens.
50:38 1/6/22
216. Digitally Deconstructing the Constitution with Dr. Nicholas Cole
When delegates assembled in Philadelphia in the Summer of 1787 to write a new Constitution, they spent months in secret writing a document they hoped would form a more perfect Union. When we talk about the convention, we often talk of the Virginia Plan, the Connecticut Compromise, the 3/5ths clause, and other major decisions that shaped the final document. What’s harder to see are the long days the delegates spent haggling over numerous proposed amendments, precise words, phrases, and ideas that contorted the constitution into its final form. It’s a process that helped create many of the political institutions that we too often take for granted these days. On today’s show, Dr. Nicholas Cole joins Jim Ambuske to chat about using the Quill Project to demystify the past moments that shaped our political and legal futures. Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College at the University of Oxford, where he is the director of the Quill Project, a digital initiative that investigates the historical origins of some of the world’s foundational legal texts. And as you’ll learn, little moments in the constitutional process can mean a lot. With this episode, we close the books on 2021. Thanks for joining us this past year, we appreciate the opportunity to be in your ears, and we look forward to seeing you in 2022. Have a safe and happy holiday season.
47:07 12/23/21
215. Reading Thomas Paine's Rights of Man with Dr. Frances Chiu
For most Americans, Thomas Paine is the radical Englishman, and former tax collector, who published Common Sense in early 1776. His claim that hereditary monarchy was an absurdity and that the “cause of America was in great measure the cause of all mankind” galvanized American rebels into thinking more seriously about independence than they had only a few months before.  Paine would go on to publish The American Crisis and other writings during the America Revolution before trying to find his place in the new United States after the war.  But in the early 1790s, Paine took up his pen once again, this time to defend the French Revolution, from its British critics, including his frenemy, Edmund Burke. The result was a two-part work entitled Rights of Man, a treatise that imagined a world that in some ways looks very similar to our own.  On today’s show, Dr. Frances Chiu joins Jim Ambuske to chat about her new guide book to Paine’s Rights of Man, published by Routledge in 2020. Chiu, who teaches at the New School, is a historian of 18thand 19th century Gothic horror, as well as British reform and radicalism. Her guide book is a handy tool for understanding Paine’s ideas and their origins, with some far older than you might imagine.
26:54 12/2/21
Previewing Episode 1 of Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon
On this week's show, we bring you Episode 1 of Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon. Entitled "Passages," it features the life of Sambo Anderson, who was just a boy when he was captured in West Africa, survived the Middle Passage, and purchased by an ambitious George Washington sometime in the late 1760s. During his years of enslavement at Mount Vernon, Anderson became a carpenter, a husband, and a father. In this episode, we tell the story of Anderson’s life to explore the rise of slavery in the Chesapeake Bay region, George and Martha Washington’s connections to the transatlantic slave trade, and the laws that marked the boundaries between slavery and freedom in Virginia. Featuring: Dr. Brenda Stevenson, Hillary Rodham Clinton Endowed Chair in Women’s History, St. John’s College, Oxford University Dr. Lorena Walsh, Research Historian Emerita, Colonial Williamsburg Dr. John C. Coombs, Professor of History, Hampden-Sydney College Dr. Lynn Price Robbins, historian of George and Martha Washington and Early America Jessie MacLeod, Associate Curator, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Full transcripts, show notes, and bibliographies available at
42:15 11/17/21
Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon (Coming November 15, 2021)
Intertwined tells the story of the more than 577 people enslaved by George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. Told through the biographies of Sambo Anderson, Davy Gray, William Lee, Kate, Ona Judge, Nancy Carter Quander, Edmund Parker, Caroline Branham, and the Washingtons, this eight-part podcast series explores the lives and labors of Mount Vernon’s enslaved community, and how we interpret slavery at the historic site today. Intertwined is narrated by Brenda Parker and is a production of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and CD Squared. Find Intertwined on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Learn more, subscribe to the show, and find full transcripts, show notes, and bibliographies available at
01:21 11/10/21
214. Weaponizing Settlement in Nova Scotia with Dr. Alexandra Montgomery
Although you might not realize it, in the years before the American Revolution, Nova Scotia was all the rage. People concocted various schemes to settle it, and the British government saw it as one of the keys to its new vision of empire after the Seven Years' War. Nova Scotia has a fascinating, often troubled history. Indigenous peoples and European powers competed for the land, and access to the colony’s lucrative fishing grounds, drawing maps to stake their claims, making war, and in the case of the British, using settlers to box out other competing interests, in a strategy that our guest today calls “weaponized settlement.” On today’s episode, Dr. Alexandra Montgomery joins Jim Ambuske to chat about her research on Nova Scotia as an imperial place, and as a site of land dispossession, in the era of the American Revolution. Montgomery is our Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital History and Cartography of the American Revolution here at the Washington Library. And in addition to telling us about an exciting new digital mapping project we’re working on these days, you’ll also learn about the donair, a Nova Scotian treat that should be on the top of your bucket list. About Our Guest: Alexandra L. Montgomery holds a PhD in early American history from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work focuses on the role of the state and settler colonialism in the eighteenth century, particularly in the far northeast. Currently, she is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital History and Cartography of the American Revolutionary War Era at Mount Vernon, where she is assisting in the creation of a new digital maps portal in collaboration with the Leventhal Map and Education Center.
46:35 11/4/21
213. Sailing to Freedom with Dr. Timothy D. Walker
In May 1796, an enslaved woman named Ona Judge fled the presidential household in Philadelphia and escaped to freedom on a ship headed for New Hampshire. Judge’s successful flight was one of many such escapes by the sea in the 18th and 19th centuries. Enslaved people boarded ships docked in ports great and small and used coastal water ways and the ocean as highways to freedom. We often learn about the Underground Railroad in school, but what about its aquatic component?  On today’s episode, Dr. Timothy D. Walker joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new edited volume, Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad, which was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2021. Walker is a Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and along with the contributors to Sailing to Freedom, Walker guides us towards new horizons in our quest to better understand this history.  About Our Guest: Dr. Timothy Walker (B.A., Hiram College, 1986; M.A., Ph.D., Boston University, 2001) is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  At UMD, he serves as Fulbright Program Advisor (faculty and students); prior posts include Director of Tagus Press and Director of the UMass in Lisbon Study Abroad Program.
42:13 10/23/21
212. Recruiting the Hero of Two Worlds with Mike Duncan
To kick off Season 6, we bring you the story of America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchmen. In 1777, the Marquis de Lafayette sailed from France with a commission as a major general in the Continental Army. Unlike many other European soldiers of fortune, Lafayette paid his own way and had no expectation that he would be placed at the head of American forces. We best remember Lafayette for his service in the American Revolution, his close relationship with George Washington, and the key to the Bastille that now hangs in the main entrance to Washington’s Mount Vernon. But Lafayette was more than meets the eye. On today’s show, podcasting legend and author Mike Duncan joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution, published by PublicAffairs Books in 2021. You may know Duncan from his two podcasts, The History of Rome and Revolutions, and in his latest book, he tackles a complex man who was at the center of the Age of Democratic Revolutions. It’s great to be back with you; we have a great season ahead of us, and we have a brand new segment in which our guests talk about the work that inspires them. About our Guest: Mike Duncan is one of the most popular history podcasters in the world and author of the New York Times–bestselling book, The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic. His award-winning series, The History of Rome, remains a legendary landmark in the history of podcasting. Duncan’s ongoing series, Revolutions, explores the great political revolutions that have driven the course of modern history. His most recent book is Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution.
56:12 10/6/21
211. Revitalizing Myaamia Language and Culture with George Ironstrack (Summer Repeat)
In the eighteenth century, the Myaamia people inhabited what are now parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. More commonly known in English as the Miami, the Myaamia figure prominently in the early history of the United States, especially in the 1790s, when war chief Mihšihkinaahkwa (or Little Turtle) co-led an alliance of Miami and Shawnee warriors that defeated successive American armies in the Ohio valley before meeting defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. In the battle’s wake, through treaty and subterfuge, Americans dispossessed the Myaamia of their lands, removing them first to Kansas in the mid-nineteenth century before final resettlement in Oklahoma not long after. Not only did the Myaamia lose their homelands, their language and culture suffered as well, lapsing into silence as the community fractured and native speakers passed away.  But as George Ironstrack tells us on today’s episode, not all is lost, and through the power of education and a lot of hard work, what was once silenced is now heard again in Myaamia communities from the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana to northeastern Oklahoma.  Ironstrack is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio. The Center is a major educational and research institution dedicated to revitalizing Myaamia language and culture, and a leader in using digital technology to explore the indigenous past. Ironstrack spoke to Jim Ambuske about the history of the Myaamia people, and the work that he and his colleagues are doing at the Myaamia Center to awaken a sleeping language.  Be sure to check out the Myaamia Center's many digital resources, including the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive. About Our Guest:  George Ironstrack is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University. He has participated in Myaamia language renewal projects as both a student and a teacher since the mid-1990s. Examples of his work can be found on the Myaamia Community Blog: 
71:14 9/22/21
210. Winning a Consolation Prize with Dr. Abby Mullen (Summer Repeat)
Consuls are essential to American foreign relations. Although they may not be as flashy or as powerful as an Ambassador like Thomas Jefferson or John Quincy Adams, they’re often the go-to people when an American gets in trouble abroad or when a trade deal needs to get done. Consuls operate in cities and towns throughout the world, helping to advance American interests and maintain good relations with their host countries, all while helping you replace your lost passport. Much has changed about the consular service since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when a consul could earn fees for his services, such as getting you out of a scrape with the local authorities But as today’s guests demonstrates, consuls were and are the backbone of American diplomacy. Dr. Abby Mullen joins Jim Ambuske to discuss her work on American consuls in the early Republic and her podcast, Consolation Prize, a show dedicated to telling the stories of these consuls, and the wider world in which they lived. Mullen is Term Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University where she is also one of the key members of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. About Our Guest: Abby Mullen holds a PhD in history from Northeastern University (2017). Her dissertation, "Good Neighbourhood with All: Conflict and Cooperation in the First Barbary War, 1801-1805," investigates how the U.S. Navy forged international connections in the Mediterranean during the First Barbary War.Mullen is the PI on Tropy, a Mellon Foundation-funded software development project. She is also technical lead on All the Appalachian Trails, a project to create an interactive map of the history of the Appalachian Trail over the last 100 years. Mullen teaches digital history courses at George Mason University.
50:09 9/15/21
209. Reading Letters by Early American Women with Kathryn Gehred (Summer Repeat)
If you pull any decent history book off your shelf right now, odds are that it’s filled with quotes from letters, diaries, or account books that help the author tell her story and provide the evidence for her interpretation of the past. It’s almost always the case that the quotation you read in a book is just one snippet of a much longer document. Perhaps, for example, Catharine Greene’s letters to her husband Nathanael offer the reader insight into some aspect of the family business she was running while Nathanael served in the southern theater of the War of Independence. But what about the rest of the document? What about the quiet moments when someone like Martha Washington asks after a family member, describes the state of their own health, or apologizes for a hurried scrawl, the result of the writer trying to catch the next post? And as valuable as collections like George Washington’s papers are, how can we write more nuanced and complete histories of the American past by reading letters by early American women? On today’s show, we welcome Kathryn Gehred, who is tackling that question by exploring the lives of early American women, one letter at a time. Gehred is a Research Editor at The Washington Papers Project based at the University of Virginia, where she is also on the team at the Center for Digital Editing, which is publishing documentary editions of historical manuscript collections online. Gehred is also the host of the new podcast, Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant. On each episode, Gehred and her guests break down a letter written by early American women and put it in context to show what is often obscured by the so-called juicier quotes you might find in your favorite book. Gehred joins Jim Ambuske today to talk about her podcast, how her training as an early American women’s historian, Monticello tour guide, and documentary editor informs her approach to it, and some of the exciting letters she’s discussed so far. And as a special treat, stick around after the credits role for a preview of Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant featuring Gehred’s conversation with our colleague Samantha Snyder about a letter from Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington. About our Guest: Kathryn Gehred is a Research Editor at The Washington Papers Project at the University of Virginia. She is also on the staff of the Center for Digital Editing. A historian of early American women, Gehred is the host of the podcast Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant, a women’s history podcast which showcases the kinds of eighteenth and early nineteenth-century women’s letters that don’t always make it into the history books.
64:40 9/1/21
208. Harnessing Harmony in the Early Republic with Billy Coleman (Summer Repeat)
On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key began composing "The Star-Spangled Banner after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry. Of all the things he could have done after seeing that flag, why did Key write a song?  And how did his new composition fit into a much longer history of music as a form of political persuasion in the Early Republic? On today’s episode, Dr. Billy Coleman joins us explore the power of music in the early United States, and how Federalists in particular used it as a kind of weapon to advance their vision of a harmonious nation led by elites. He also helps us understand why music as a form of historical evidence is a remarkable way to get inside the heads, and the hearts, of people from ages past. Coleman is the Kinder Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Political History at the University of Missouri. He is the author of Harnessing Harmony: Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788-1865, (UNC Press, 2020). Coleman and his collaborator, the music producer Running Notch, have also created a soundtrack for the book, featuring modern interpretations of some of the most important political songs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.nFind the soundtrack here or search for “Harnessing Harmony” on Spotify. You’ll hear clips from a couple of these tunes over the course of today’s program, but make sure you stick around after the credits roll for an exclusive opportunity to hear the complete versions of "Hail, Columbia" and "Jefferson and Liberty," which appear “ courtesy of Running Notch from the “Book Soundtrack” to Billy Coleman’s Harnessing Harmony: Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788–1865 (UNC Press). About Our Guest:  Billy Coleman, Ph.D. is the Kinder Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Political History at the University of Missouri. His research articles also appear in the Journal of Southern History and the Journal of the Early Republic. His new project, “Making Music National in a Settler State,” is exploring the transnational origins of national music in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Dr. Coleman is currently the North American-based Book Reviews Editor for the peer-reviewed journal, American Nineteenth Century History. 
65:07 8/18/21
207. Offering George Washington a Royal Gift with Professor José Emilio Yanes (Summer Repeat)
In 1784, King Charles III of Spain sent George Washington a token of his esteem. Knowing that Washington had long sought a Spanish donkey for his Mount Vernon estate, the king permitted a jack to be exported to the new United States. Washington named the donkey Royal Gift in recognition of its royal origin, and the donkey became somewhat of a minor celebrity when he disembarked from his ship in 1785. As it turns out, Spanish jacks like Royal Gift were highly prized animals in the Atlantic world. And in this case the Spanish, who had supported the United States during the American Revolution, saw an opportunity to use a donkey as a way to shore up diplomatic relations with the new republic and protect their interests in North America. On today’s show, Professor José Emilio Yanes joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, El Regalo de Carlos III A George Washington: El periplo de Royal Gift. Yanes is a veterinarian and Associate Professor at the University of Salamanca in Spain. As the title of his work suggests, it is a Spanish language book, one that makes use of manuscripts in Spanish archives to flesh out Royal Gift’s story. We spoke last fall with the help of his friend and collaborator, Allan Winn, Jr., who it so happens is a native of Alexandria, Virginia who has lived in Spain for many years now and runs Allan School of English in Zamora. If Spanish happens to be your mother tongue, or if you are like me and you are desperately trying to get better at it, please check out the Spanish-language version of this episode, which will appear in your podcast feed. Before we get started, we ask that you do us a quick favor. If you like the show, please drop us a review through your favorite podcast app. We’d really appreciate. And be sure to check out our new website for the show, which we think will make it easier for you to find your favorite episodes. You can find us at About Our Guests: José Emilio Yanes Garcia is Superior Polytechnic School of Zamora and Associate Professor at the University of Salamanca (Spain). He is the author of El Regalo de Carlos III A George Washington: El periplo de Royal Gift (2019). Allan R. Winn, Jr. is a native of Alexandria, Virginia who now resides in Zomora, Spain. He is the proprietor of Allan School of English. Winn assisted Yanes with translation work in El Regalo de Carlos III A George Washington and provided translation for this episode.
39:54 8/4/21
206. Promoting Joseph Smith for President with Dr. Spencer W. McBride
The American Revolution dismembered a protestant empire. In the years during and after the war, states disestablished their churches, old and new denominations flourished, and Americans enshrined religious freedom into their state and federal constitutions. But claiming religious freedom in a democracy was not the same as enjoying it. In the republic’s early years, Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his Mormon brethren learned all too well the difference between ideal and reality. In Missouri and elsewhere, Smith and his fellow Mormons faced persecution for their beliefs, yet had faith that American democracy would help right these wrongs. But as it became clear that state and federal officials would not intervene, Smith arrived at a bold conclusion--he would run for president in 1844 on one of the most radical platforms in American history. On today’s show, Dr. Spencer W. McBride joins Jim Ambuske to talk about Smith, Mormonism, and the politics of religion in the early republic. McBride is the author of the new book Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom, published by Oxford University Press in 2021. About Our Guest: Spencer W. McBride, Ph.D., is an Associate Managing Historian of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and the author of Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America. He has written about the evolving role of religion in American politics for the Washington Post and the Deseret News. He is also the creator and host of The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast.
44:28 7/22/21
205. Grieving with the Widow Washington with Dr. Martha Saxton
In the eighteenth century, death stalked early Americans like a predator hunting its prey. In Virginia, as in other colonies, death made children orphans and wives widows, making a precarious existence all that much more challenging. For the Virginia elite, death also created opportunities for widows and widowers alike to protect their interests, their property, and their social standing through advantageous re-marriages. But the predator’s teeth never dulled, and when it took another life some Virginians like Mary Washington turned to devotional texts for comfort and for the strength to press onward. Historians have not looked favorably on George Washington’s mother over the past few decades, finding her to be difficult, stubborn, and often a drag on her more famous son. Yet as today’s guest tells us, those observations take their cue from George himself, and ignore the full shape of her life, one in which death was a constant companion. Dr. Martha Saxton joins Jim Ambuske today to discuss her new book, The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington. Dr. Saxton is Professor of History, Women’s, and Gender Studies emerita at Amherst College. And as you’ll hear, books like Matthew Hale’s Contemplations, Moral and Divine offered Mary solace in a world in which death was very much a part of life. About our Guest: Martha Saxton, Ph.D., is Professor of History, Women’s, and Gender Studies emerita at Amherst College. She is the author of Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America, (Hill and Wang, 2003), and The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington (Hill and Wang, 2019).
39:59 7/12/21
204. Raising Liberty Poles in the Early Republic with Dr. Shira Lurie
If you’ve taken part in a part in a protest recently, perhaps you carried a sign, waved a flag, or worn a special hat. But if you had grievances in the American Revolution or early Republic, you might have helped raise a Liberty Pole. Now, you may ask yourself, what good is a large wooden pole gonna do about my high taxes? And you may ask yourself, do I really want to lift this heavy thing? Turns out, as the days went by in the late eighteenth century, many Americans thought Liberty Poles were the perfect way to signal their collective displeasure and rally their countrymen against some perceived wrong. And what one group could put up, another could most assuredly pull down. On today’s episode, we’ll hear from Dr. Shira Lurie, an expert on these strange objects and the meaning they held for Americans in the founding generation. Americans used Liberty Poles to argue over a citizen’s role in a republic. And what was a symbol of liberty to some, was an icon of tyranny to others. Lurie is an Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia. She’s the author an article recently published in the Journal of the Early American Republic entitled, “Liberty Poles and the Fight for Popular Politics in the Early Republic.” Besides Liberty Poles, Lurie tells us how she tries to reach many different audiences as a historian, and what it’s like to teach American history in both Canada and the United States. About our Guest: Shira Lurie, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary's University. She is a political historian of the early United States with particular interests in popular politics, protest, and political violence. Her current book project explores liberty poles and debates over dissent in the early republic. She also thinks, teaches, and writes about historical memory in public space and popular culture.
37:50 6/24/21