Hi folks. I write to you after, lo, these many months with two pieces of news and some recommendations.

On December 13, my digital book America’s Public Bible: A Commentary will be published online by Stanford University Press. The book will be a part of Stanford’s digital publishing program, which publishes interactive works of scholarship.

More on the book in the lead up to publication. In the meantime, you might like to check out the prototype version, because it is not long for this world.

Here is the cover:

The cover to America's Public Bible

And here is the publisher’s description:

Throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, newspapers in the United States—even newspapers which were not published by a religious denomination or organization—made frequent recourse to the Bible. Newspapers printed sermons and Sunday school lessons. They featured jokes whose punchlines required familiarity with the Bible and aired political commentary that cited the Bible on all sides of a given issue.

America’s Public Bible is an interactive scholarly work that uncovers the history of the Bible in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States. When the Bible was cited on one side or the other of an issue, only rarely was its meaning explicated rather than assumed. Those who cited the text most typically thought that their readers would understand its meaning precisely as they did. But the multiple and mutually exclusive ways in which newspapers used the Bible tests that assumption. By identifying and studying quotations in American newspapers, the site offers a commentary on how the Bible was used in public life, uncovering trends and patterns that would be invisible to a single scholar’s reading of these documents.

Read the entire post 

Pleased to welcome a new colleague, Jim Ambuske, to RRCHNM. Jim will be working at R2 Studios.

Sometime ago Kellen Funk and I used computational analysis to study how the Field Code created the category of civil procedure in American law, and how that New York code spread across jurisdictions in the nineteenth-century United States. We published an article about those specific findings, and have given various talks, shared code, published datasets, and the like.

Since that time we have tried to maintain a consistent historical and methodological approach, while expanding our scope in two ways. Our historical aim remains the same: we want to show how the modern structures of American law developed, and to do so, we are using computational methods which can uncover and describe patterns not readily found or explained with more conventional historical methods. We are expanding that research to more comprehensive corpora of legal sources, including the Caselaw Access Project and The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises, 1800–1926. And while we intend to keep publishing in conventional historical journals—at least, we hope to—we also want to expand the scope of the project to include more interactive visualizations.

To that end we have created a website for our work, which we are calling Legal Modernism. At the moment the website simply gathers our already published work. But it will soon be the platform for our visualizations and other ongoing work. (There is a feed on the project website if you’d like subscribe for updates.)

Our visualizations, publications, talks, and source code are available on the project website.

Our visualizations, publications, talks, and source code are available on the project website.

While my blogging efforts have been at most sporadic, I hope to share more substantively some of what we are working on in the coming days.

The most recent issue of the American Religion @ RRCHNM newsletter features an announcement of our Luce Foundation grant for a podcast on the history of American antisemitism, a new map of male and female preachers in the National Spiritual Alliance, and a new collection of oral histories about the Jewish experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things.

Caroline Greer writes about a National Spiritual Alliance church named after its pastor, Dorcas Brown, and maybe the biblical Dorcas too.

I often have small snippets of Markdown that I want to copy to the clipboard and then paste as HTML. I thought about writing an extension for Visual Studio Code, or a custom script for Boop. But that seemed like a lot of work for a simple task. And then I remembered: Unix.

pbpaste | pandoc | pbcopy

There is a one-liner which will work on a Mac to paste Markdown into Pandoc and then copy the resulting HTML back to the clipboard.

Can’t get much simpler than that.

If you want do go from HTML to Markdown, the one-liner is a little longer:

pbpaste | pandoc -f html -t markdown | pbcopy

If you are a GMU student, faculty, or staff member, you can access library resources from off campus using a library proxy. Suppose you want to access this article:

Rosenzweig, Roy. “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era.” American Historical Review 108, no. 3 (2003): 735–62. https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/108.3.735.

Following that DOI will take you to this page at the Oxford University Press website. This version is behind a paywall, however: we can’t see the full article.

A paywalled version of the article.

A paywalled version of the article.

Read the entire post 

The start of the academic year at RRCHNM also means the return of many of our graduate students. This week RRCHNM welcomed twenty-five graduate research assistants or graduate affiliates.

RRCHNM on the first day of classes.

RRCHNM on the first day of classes.

Graduate students are a critical part of the work that RRCHNM creates, and RRCHNM is in turn core to the experience of many of the graduate students in GMU’s Department of History and Art History.

A number of the graduate students at RRCHNM are graduate research assistants. As a part of their PhD fellowship from GMU, they work on RRCHNM projects. Coming alongside our faculty and staff, GRAs are full part of project teams. They contribute their expertise on both the subject matter of our projects and on the digital history skills that go into making them. While participating in the projects they learn from the faculty and staff and quickly move from being research assistants in name to research collaborators in fact. Our alumni from RRCHNM take what they have learned to become digital historians in libraries, museums, businesses, research centers, and academic departments.

The kinds of work that GRAs do at RRCHNM can be quite varied. For example, one GRA is working on writing and producing episodes for The Green Tunnel podcast about the history of the Appalachian Trail. Two GRAs are working with our partners at the National Museum of African American History and Culture to create a digital archive from the collections of five HBCUs. Two other GRAs are contributing to large-scale projects to turn historical collections into datasets. And two first-year GRAs are working on World History Commons to create educational resources and lesson plans for K–12 teachers, parents, and students.

Graduate students also are a part of RRCHNM to work on research projects that they start and lead themselves. Our graduate research affiliates—who are MA or PhD students in history or art history, as well as in related disciplines—benefit from the mentoring of RRCHNM’s staff and faculty. We currently have three working groups—on public history, spatial history, and data analysis—meeting regularly throughout the year to discuss works in progress and new publications on these topics. We regularly offer a series on “Basics of” where people at RRCHNM offer one another introductions to podcasting, educational resources, community engagement, various technologies, and so-called “soft skills” such as budgeting, project management. The graduate students themselves also form a community for peer mentoring.

The research projects that graduate students at RRCHNM create lead the field of digital history as much as any of the work by our faculty and staff. PhD students at GMU were the first to create born-digital dissertations. Our affiliates regularly present their research at academic conferences and publish their projects online. A number of our current affiliates are working on digital dissertations that combine visualizations, maps, databases, or public engagement with the prose more typically associated with dissertations.

To most people, RRCHNM is associated with the digital projects that we create and make freely available online.  Those online projects are the most visible part of RRCHNM. But another key part of our work is educating students to do digital history so that they can in turn achieve our mission—to democratize history. And that is work we have been doing for decades.

This weekend I am giving a presentation about the future of digital scholarship in the field of American religion at the Biennial Conference on Religion and American Culture. In the presentation I’ll be sharing a number of digital projects in American religion that I’ve learned a lot from. Since the proceedings of the conference will be published later, I won’t publish my remarks here now. But for the sake of conference participants who might want to follow along, here is a list of the projects I’ll mention without notes or comment.