The Talking Machines is a new podcast by Katherine Gorman and Ryan Adams about machine learning. It generally includes an interview with someone in the field and a response to listeners’ questions. The production quality is very high.
In support of some of my research projects, I created a simple R package to access the Internet Archive’s API. The package is intended to search for items, to retrieve their metadata in a usable form, and to download the files associated with the items. The package, called internetarchive, is available on GitHub. The README and the vignette have a full explanation, but here is a brief overview.
Next, you can do advanced searches, specifying which fields you want to search:
ia_search(c("publisher" = "american tract society",
date = "1840 TO 1850"))
Having retrieve a list of items using either of those search functions, you can get get the items and their associated metadata in a data frame. Here we use magrittr’s pipe operator (%>%) to create a pipeline:
My intended use is for downloading the files associated with items to create a corpus of texts. In this example, we search for items and download only the plain text files. The filtering is provided by dplyr.
The functions ia_metadata(), ia_files(), and ia_download() all return data frames, which should be easily filtered, reshaped, and joined as necessary. I hope the package is useful for creating corpora for text mining as well as for downloading sources to read in batches.
Doubtless there are parts of the Internet Archive API, especially in the advanced search and file types, that I haven’t adequately explored. I’ll be glad for bug reports.
As Heath Carter has noted, we are due for a bumper crop of books on religion and capitalism in the United States. I want to briefly take note of a new collection of essays on the subject which came out of a conference held at Heidelberg University in 2011: Jan Stievermann, Philip Goff, Detlef Junker, Anthony Santoro, and Daniel Silliman, eds., Religion and the Marketplace in the United States New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
I came to this collection looking for a critique of the persistent metaphor of a “market of religion.” (To be more precise, I’ve been sketching ideas for an essay on this topic. When I saw in the Amazon preview that the title of Brooks Holifield’s essay was similar to mine, I figured I needed to read it.) In the introduction the editors begin by critiquing “two metanarratives” about religion and the marketplace. The first of these “compartmentalizes religion and economics as more or less distinct spheres of human life that causally explain each other” (9). Most of the essays in this volume complicate this metanarrative. Mark Valeri on eighteenth-century New England merchants, Grant Wacker on Billy Graham, and Hilde Løvdal Stephens on James Dobson all describe small, daily interactions between religious belief and practice and the economy. Likewise a trio of essays on markets for religious books by Matthew Hedstrom, Günter Leypoldt, and Daniel Silliman show how groups from liberal Protestants to pretribulationist evangelicals navigated and created markets in religious commodities.
The second metanarrative that the editors critique is the idea that “the relationship of religion and markets … explains ‘the American difference,’ why America seems so religious in comparison with other Western countries” (15). The bookend essays to this collection by Brooks Holifield and Kathryn Lofton take on this idea. In a tightly argued essay on “The Limitations of Market Explanations,” Holifield makes short work of the idea, not so much refuting it as showing its implausibility. He argues instead that there is a “contingent, not necessary” connection between markets in religion and religiosity. Lofton makes the critique more general with a meditative essay on neoliberalism. She offers two observations: that historians are currently writing in an era of neoliberalism, and that most of the essays in the volume argue for a close connection between religious actors and the marketplace. From these observations she asks, “Is all American religion now neoliberal? Or is it merely the case that our scholarship has been so determined?” (285). Lofton doesn’t give a definitive answer to this question, but the asking is what makes her essay the highlight of the collection. My suspicion is that the idea of “a [metaphorical] market of religion” has become an crutch we reach for too often to describe American religious interactions without explaining them.
So there are two reasons you might want to pick up this edited collection. The body of the book offers a number of thoughtful, nuanced expositions of the daily interactions between religious actors and the economy. But Holifield and Lofton call into question the terms on which we write about religions and markets.
The New Nation Votes database (NNV) offers election returns from the early American republic collected by Philip Lampi and digitized by Tufts University and the American Antiquarian Society. Several scholars writing in a 2013 issue of the Journal of the Early Republic have tackled questions such as voter turnout and measures of party competitiveness (Brooke), the resurgence of the Federalists after 1808 (Lampi), the expansion of the franchise (Ratcliffe), and families and the turnover of congressmen (Zagarri). My aim is much more preliminary: to see what kind of analysis, in particular mapping, might be done with the dataset.1 I have wanted to explore this dataset for some time, so here is a preliminary investigation into the Massachusetts gubernatorial elections up to 1824.
The first aim is to get an overview of party politics in the elections for governor. The chart below shows the percentage of votes won by the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties from 1796 to 1824. The overall pattern in elections for governors is fairly plain. From 1797 until 1805, the Federalists had a strong hold on the office, putting Increase Sumner, Moses Gill, and Caleb Strong in the governor’s chair.2 Caleb Strong came to office (after both Sumner and Gill had died in office) with some competition in 1800, but his hold was fairly secure until 1805. That year inaugurated stiff competition for the governorship, which switched hands repeatedly until the election of 1813. The War of 1812 and the rise of younger Federalists gave the Federalists the upper hand until they lost the 1823 election, never to win the Massachusetts governorship again. Note that there are a few oddities in this chart which I have not resolved. For example, John Brooks was listed as a Federalist every year from 1816 to 1821, except 1818 to 1819; I don’t know whether that means Brooks really ran without an affiliation or whether it is an omission in the data. But this chart more or less confirms the argument of Philip Lampi (and earlier, of David Hackett Fischer).
The next task is to see which politicians were serious contenders for governor of Massachusetts. I’m arbitrarily defining a contender as someone who managed to win at least 10 percent of the vote in at least one election. More than one thousand people are listed in the gubernatorial election returns from 1787 to 1824, but only twenty got at least 10% of the vote, and only ten won office in their own right.3 The chart below shows the careers of those contenders. There are too many people on this chart for the colors to be much help, so I’ve labeled the lines for the more significant figures. John Hancock had a secure tenure, while Samuel Adams’s was somewhat more rocky. But note that Increase Sumner, the first Federalist governor, also won high proportions of the popular vote. Starting in 1800 and certainly by 1805, elections were contested much more heavily; the nature of gubernatorial politics changed. We can see the arcs of people’s careers. Federalist Caleb Strong won a close election in 1800 and gradually increased his margin of victory, but with the new regime of competition he was an on-again, off-again candidate until 1815. Federalist John Brooks enjoyed seven wins in a row, but his last three election were contested by William Eustis. Eustis never did defeat Brooks, but he did defeat Federalists Harrison Gray Otis in 1823 and Samuel Lathrop in 1824. Elbridge Gerry was the William Jennings Bryan of the early republic (except Gerry eventually won), running repeatedly for governor starting in 1788, but not even coming close until he won in 1810.
Next, I’ve created maps for three gubernatorial elections: 1800, 1807, and 1823. These maps are exceedingly rough-and-ready, intended for exploration rather than argument. I made them using my cartographer package. The election returns are in the NNV dataset at the level of towns, so I geocoded the names of 869 towns in Massachusetts and Maine.4 This is not ideal, but since towns tend to split rather than move the locations should be more or less correct for these exploratory maps. The county boundaries are from the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries via my USAboundaries package. The maps each include layers for the top two or three candidates. Red represents the Federalists; blue, the Democratic-Republicans. Each town is sized according to the number of votes for the candidate.5 Click on each town to get the number of votes. This way of layering the votes for each candidate is not ideal. Perhaps a better solution would be to show how many more votes each candidate won in a particular place; e.g., Strong won 142 more votes than Gerry in Brookfield.
Some general observations about the importance of space in these elections.
First, Boston was far and away the biggest city in Massachusetts, but it had little impact on the elections. In the 1800 election, Gerry got only 24 more votes than Strong in Boston, a difference of less than 1 percent of the turn out. In 1823, Otis got only 108 more votes than Eustis. Only in 1807 did Strong get significantly more votes than Sullivan (and Strong still lost the election). Even though Boston contributed more votes than any place, and though sometimes it went for Democratic-Republicans and sometimes it went for Federalists, it was not really a swing city because the two parties were usually closely tied in Boston.
Second, in the 1800 election Strong won because he won Berkshire and Hampshire Counties in Western Massachusetts. Gerry’s support in those counties was virtually non-existent. 6 Gerry, though, did much better in Maine, especially away from the coast. Strong also did well in Essex County, a Federalist center of strength.
By 1807 the Democratic-Republican candidate, James Sullivan, did far better than Gerry had in the Western counties and in some Western towns he did better than Strong. Sullivan even made some inroads into Essex County and Cape Cod, though Strong made some inroads into Maine. This election was closely contested in nearly every town, and Sullivan narrowly defeated Strong by gaining votes in places that had gone heavily for Federalists in earlier elections. The change in politics from dominance by one party to heavily contested elections that we noted in the charts above also appears on this map.
In 1823, Otis maintained some of the Federalist strength in western Massachusetts, though he also lost (I suspect that when Maine gained statehood in 1820, the Federalists benefited slightly from a decline of Republican votes). But Otis was defeated in most of the towns surrounding Boston.
These maps show comparatively little of the split between “blue” cities and “red” country that we are accustomed to in modern electoral maps. This is hardly surprising, since mass urbanization happened much later. But what is surprising in these few maps is how close the vote was in many towns. The line between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans did not run between towns but through them. Elections were highly competitive at the state level, but that competition was also reflected in most towns.7 There is a lot more work to do, including figuring out a better way of representing votes by town, creating maps for all the Massachusetts gubernatorial elections, extending the analysis to other states and other types of elections, and taking on questions such as voter turnout and changing patterns of votes within particular towns.
If you would like to look up a particular election or candidate, use the table below.
See the summer 2013 issue of the Journal of the Early Republic, which includes the following articles: Caroline F. Sloat, “A New Nation Votes and the Study of American Politics, 1789-1824,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 2 (2013): 183–86, doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0042; John L. Brooke, “‘King George Has Issued Too Many Pattents for Us’: Property and Democracy in Jeffersonian New York,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 2 (2013): 187–217, doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0037; Donald Ratcliffe, “The Right to Vote and the Rise of Democracy, 1787-1828,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 2 (2013): 219–54, doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0033; Philip J. Lampi, “The Federalist Party Resurgence, 1808-1816: Evidence from the New Nation Votes Database,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 2 (2013): 255–81, doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0029; Rosemarie Zagarri, “The Family Factor: Congressmen, Turnover, and the Burden of Public Service in the Early American Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 2 (2013): 283–316, doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0026; Andrew W. Robertson, “Afterword: Reconceptualizing Jeffersonian Democracy,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 2 (2013): 317–34, doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0023.↩
Samuel Adams (won 1796) is listed as a Republican in NNV.↩
Governors Levi Lincoln Sr., Moses Gill, and Marcus Morton succeeded governors who died in office but did not win office in their own right. The turnover between parties must be attributed, at least in part, to weak successors running for governor.↩
This required an additional step to distinguish between Maine and Massachusetts, since until 1820, towns in what is today Maine were part of Massachusetts. A few populated places, such as “Number 8 and 9” in Maine could not be geocoded, but those places account for fewer than 100 votes per election.↩
Because many more people voted in later elections, the relationship between the size of the circles and the number of votes varies from map to map.↩
I am surprised that a Federalist did better in Western Massachusetts. Am I wrong to be surprised?↩
Of course there are some exceptions. Chesire and Adams stand out to me: both were home to mills, and Chesire had a glass factory. Did these mill towns have a different kind of politics?↩
This semester I’m teaching a new graduate seminar titled “Religion and Capitalism in the United States.” The readers of the Religion in American History blog gave me many suggestions for the readings. The syllabus is available online. Here is the class description:
The relationship between religion and capitalism has long exercised historians of the United States, and before them it concerned the people whom historians study. In this class, you will meet many people whose religion led them to interact with capitalism in incredibly diverse ways. You will meet the Puritans whose work ethic supposedly created capitalism, but who insisted on resting on the Sabbath; Moravian missionaries who made converts and money; slaves, slaveowners, and abolitionists who all claimed the Bible when reckoning with the capitalist system of slavery; a Protestant writer who insisted that Jesus was a businessman, and Catholics who believed Jesus called them to a kind of socialism; African American preachers who marketed their recorded sermons; Jews who mass-manufactured matzah and created Yiddish socialism; an industrialist who wrote The Gospel of Wealth, and laborers who created churches for the working class; nineteenth-century consumers who turned gift-giving into a ritual, and a twenty-first-century television personality who turned consumption into therapy; converts who thought religion required poverty, and Prosperity Gospelers who thought it promised wealth. You will read primary sources from American history, secondary works in both religious history and the new history of capitalism, and excerpts from theorists of religion and capitalism. Through these readings and your own research project, you are invited make sense of this perpetual historical puzzle.
Happy New Year, Religion in American History readers.
One of my favorite ways to get to know a scholar is to read her syllabi. Syllabi show how scholars put together a whole field. (And probably no text reveals personality as much as the introduction and policies on a syllabus.) Yet unfortunately teaching documents are shared less routinely than our research, so we are much more likely to know a scholar’s books and articles than her syllabi. Following the example of Paul Putz’s regular lists of new books, I intend to start a posting a roundup of syllabi for religious history and religious studies from the past semester from whoever wishes to contribute.
So here is a list of past syllabi from people who replied to my entreaties. Only a small number replied this first time, but if you would like to add your syllabus to this list, feel free to leave a link in the comments, or you can e-mail me a document and I’ll add it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The graduate students in my fall 2014 class “Programming for Historians”—Sara Collini, Peter Carr Jones, Jannelle Legg, Anne Ladyem McDivitt, George D. Oberle III, and Amanda Regan—and I will present the poster below at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Historical Association. This post is a (more or less) permanent version of the poster along with supplementary materials.
The projects created by the graduate students in the course, along with the code that they wrote, are available at their own websites. Below is a list of authors and project titles: