Everyday Life in Early America, July 16–22, 2017
John Demos is a graduate of Harvard College and did post-graduate work at Oxford, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard. He served two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. His professional career began at Brandeis University, where he rose from assistant to full professor and chair of the History Department. He moved to Yale as a professor of history in 1986; subsequently he became the Samuel Knight Professor of History, a position he held until his retirement in 2008. Since then he has continued to teach at Yale on an occasional basis. His courses and seminars have focused mainly on American social history (topic) and the colonial era (period); he has also taught, in a regular way, about the craft of historical writing. He is the author of eight books, one of which (Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England) won the Bancroft Prize in American History, another (The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America) the Francis Parkman Prize and the Ray Allen Billington Prize (plus being a finalist for the National Book Award in General Non-Fiction). His most recent book, The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic, was longlisted for the National Book Award (also in General Non-Fiction).
But he is perhaps most proud of the achievements of younger historians with whom he has worked as a teacher and doctoral advisor: several have themselves won major book prizes, and their professional appointments include universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of California, Northwestern, and many others.
Demos has served on various commissions and advisory groups, and consulted for many film, television, and radio projects. He lives in Tyringham, Massachusetts, with his wife, Dr. Virginia Demos, a clinical and developmental psychologist.
The seminar will explore central themes and questions relating to everyday life during the colonial period of American history (roughly 1600–1775). An opening pair of units will treat the life cycle as typically experienced in that era—first, around its terminal points (birth and death), then through its various intervening stages. The remaining units will form a trio, comprising inner-life experience (psychology), interpersonal behavior (sociology), and concern with the supernatural (religion, magic, witchcraft, and related matters of cosmology).
Our larger goal is to develop a detailed sense of life on the ground among ordinary folk in this long-ago time and place. Our main focus will be New England—and the history that remains evident in its natural and built landscape—but, wherever possible, reference will be made to other colonial venues as well. The seminar will meet daily. Morning sessions will combine lectures with discussion. Afternoon activities will include field trips, library visits, and additional discussion. The field trips, in particular, will serve to connect us with the material dimension of early American life—the houses, furnishings, gardens, and other surviving artifacts.
Travel & Accommodations
Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. The Tweed-New Haven Airport is located about fifteen minutes from the Yale Campus. Taxis from Tweed cost about $15.00 one way. Additionally, Bradley Airport is located an hour north of New Haven and is served by many major airlines. Connecticut Limo shuttles leave once an hour and cost $84 round trip. Amtrak provides service directly into New Haven’s Union Station, about a ten-minute cab ride from downtown New Haven and the Yale campus. MetroNorth provides commuter service on a regular basis from New York City into New Haven.
Workshop participants will stay in a university residence hall. Rooms are arranged in suites of two single bedrooms with a furnished living room, shared bath, and kitchenette. The building is air-conditioned. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited. Internet service is provided, but not Ethernet cables.
Yale provides sheets and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Kitchenettes are located in each suite. However, participants should bring their own utensils. Housekeeping services are provided throughout the week.
Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.
Course Reviews from Past Participants
"I feel like I won the teacher lottery with this program. I plan on sharing my notes and books with my other teachers and trying to bring history back into our elementary school classroom. Thank you for a wonderful week."
"This seminar was phenomenal. As a young teacher this incorporated previously understudied perspectives on Colonial Encounters that will enable me to more effectively deliver quality instruction. The use of primary sources in the reader were relevant to our topics of discussion and presented an in-depth analysis of Colonial America."
Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.
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