Conversations at the Washington Library
By George Washington's Mount Vernon
Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past.
224. Unpacking the Slave Empire with Dr. Padraic Scalan
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 Scalan joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, Slave Empire: How Slavery Made Modern Britain. Scalan 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.
June 24, 2022
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.
May 19, 2022
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 www.georgewashingtonpodcast.com
April 06, 2022
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.
March 25, 2022
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.
March 09, 2022
220. Educating Early Americans with Drs. Mark Boonshoft and Andrew O'Shaughnessy
In eighteenth-century America,