Hurricanes, historians, and environmental injustice: De-naturalizing “natural” disaster

Contributing editor Caroline Grego, whose dissertation is about the Great Sea Island Storm of 1893, reflects on historians’ and historically-minded thinkers’ scholarship on “natural disasters.” Header photograph by Marcus Yam for Getty Images. What we call “natural” disasters—hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, tornadoes—are not natural at all. This is true, first, because nothing about the experience of…

Historians Speak: A Collection of Resources, by Historians, on Charlottesville and the Charged Politics of Civil War Memory

  Following the violent demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th, national dialogue about the significance of American history—and its telling—has crescendoed. Two weeks after white supremacists clashed with counter-protestors over the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, public leaders have turned unprecedented critical attention to other public…

The (Award Winning) Erstwhile Blog Entries of 2017

Erstwhile editor Julia Frankenbach has been recognized for the outstanding quality of her writing in the Center of the American West’s Thompson Writing Awards contest. Two of her Erstwhile blog posts “I Remember You: Wildness, Gratitude, and Western History on Horseback” and “The True Tale of Periquillo: Early Borderlands Literature, American Memory, and the Space Between” were honored this year. Erstwhile…

An appeal for grace: The white historian’s responsibility to radical empathy and refuting the “invented past”

On February 14th, 2017, Representative Joseph “Joe” Neal (D) from Richland County, South Carolina, died unexpectedly at age sixty-six. Rep. Neal served as a pastor, an advocate for environmental justice, and a civil rights activist. He descended from slaves in lower Richland County, a rural and predominantly African American community south of Columbia, the state’s…

Donald Trump and the Failure of the Enlightenment

Erstwhile contributing editor Graeme Pente reflects on the rise of skepticism about observed reality and what it means for the intellectual foundations of our modern world. The president lives in his own reality. From erroneous claims about voter fraud to explain away his losing the popular vote to “alternative facts” about the size of the inauguration…

Reasserting White Supremacy: South Carolina’s Ben Tillman and the 2016 presidential election

On July 10th, 2015, members of a South Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard reeled down the Confederate flag from a pole in front of the statehouse. Ten thousand onlookers roared excitedly as the flag descended, some cheering “USA! USA! USA!” – a traditionally patriotic shout that took on new meaning when chanted at the flag representing the Confederate…

Facing Up to Canada’s Colonial History in Gord Downie’s “Secret Path”

Erstwhile contributing editor Graeme Pente explores the implications of a new Canadian multimedia project that encourages the country to confront its colonial history with the region’s First Peoples. You don’t make a dent / In indifference / Ya gotta haunt them, haunt them, haunt them  — Gord Downie, Secret Path (2016) The graphic novel is the…

The True Tale of Periquillo: Early Borderlands Literature, American Memory, and the Space Between

Contributing editor Julia Frankenbach considers the importance of early western American literature for academic historians and for a politically engaged American public. In this moment of political confusion, facts begin to ring hollow. The broader truths and guiding ethics in the writings of our western American forebears may help as we seek the way forward.…