Call For Papers: Warring for America, 1803-1818

A Multidisciplinary Conference on the era of the War of 1812, co-sponsored by The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, The Huntington Library, the New York University Department of History, and The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress will be held March 31 – April 1, 2011, at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


The War of 1812, the first declared war in the history of the United States, erupted in the midst of countervailing forces shaping America in the first decades of the nineteenth century. From the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 to the Seminole War of 1818- from the close of the Atlantic slave trade in 1807 to the founding of the American Colonization Society in 1817- from the resumption of the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 to the second Barbary War in 1815- from New Jerseys revocation of female suffrage in 1807 to Frances Wright’s arrival in America in 1818- from the publication of Tabitha Gilman Tenneys parodic sentimental novel Female Quixotism (1801) to Washington Irving’s Sketch-Book (1819)- from Charles Willson Peales The Exhumation of the Mastodon (1806) to Charles Bird Kings portrait of Secretary of War John C. Calhoun (1818), this understudied era was crowded with events destined to unsettle the so-called revolutionary settlement.

At once postcolonial and neoimperial, the America of 1812 was still in need of definition. The decision to go to war catalyzed a critical era, one too often dismissed as an insignificant interregnum between the world of Jefferson and the world of Jackson. In contrast to the progressive experimentation of the 1780s and 1790s, the years surrounding the War of 1812 can be characterized as a period of narrowing possibilities and sharpening distinctions. Yet, the volatile elements that converged in the war and that emerged, transformed, point to the generative instabilities of the early Republic. This pivotal period merits further scholarly consideration.

The conferences title, Warring for America, 1803-1818, seeks to uncouple the War of 1812 from its stale fixture as the finale of the revolutionary era. Henry Adams contended that many nations have gone to war in pure gayety of heart- but perhaps the United States were first to force themselves into a war they dreaded, in the hope that the war itself might create the spirit they lacked. Historians have largely followed Adamss lead, interpreting the War of 1812 as a second War for Independence, a crisis meant to create the spirit of American nationalism. This conference, conversely, will consider the war as a volitional conflict that resulted from a confluence of many social, cultural, and geopolitical pressures and that had divergent consequences for the future of the extended republic.

Scholars are invited from a wide spectrum of disciplines from history and literature to art history and material culture to consider from new perspectives the struggles among Indians, Britons, Canadians, Euro-Americans, and African Americans throughout the North American continent, the Caribbean, and across the Atlantic Ocean. At issue were conflicting visions for control over territory, meanings of liberty, and distributions of power that came into focus through the upheaval of war. Proposals should address the connections between the new republics underlying tensions and the promulgation, execution, and explanations of the war itself. The organizers encourage submission of proposals for new, original work that is not committed for publication elsewhere, as a volume of essays resulting from the conference is anticipated.

Possible paper or panel topics include:

–Origins of war and consequences of peace
–Citizenship: gender, race, and sovereignty
–Transformations in artistic and literary genres and representations of America
–Postcolonialism, nationalism, imperialism, expansionism, regionalism
–Continental and hemispheric events and repercussions: Shawnee, Creek, and Seminole Wars, Haitian Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and Louisiana, Latin American wars for independence, slave trade, contest for Canada and Mexico
–Fronts of conflict, including the household, frontier, plantation, sea
–Washington, D.C.: from new capital to pillaged city
–Reconfigurations: revitalization to removal, abolition to colonization, Jeffersonianism to American system, First Bank of the U.S. to Second Bank of the U.S., printing to publishing, America as an object of natural history to the U.S. as a subject of history
–Narratives and memories of the war
–The Era of Good Feelings?: political factionalism, sectionalism, racism

Submit a one- to two-page synopsis of your paper proposal and a short-form c.v. no later than January 15, 2010. Submissions must be done electronically, either online at the conference Web site, http://oieahc.wm.edu/conferences/1812/cfp/index.cfm, or by email to the Omohundro Institutes webmaster, Kim Foley, at kawahl@wm.edu. Include on the c.v. complete contact information (mail, email, and telephone). All submissions will be acknowledged by email. If you do not receive an acknowledgment, please resubmit or contact Kim Foley.

Program Committee: Fredrika J. Teute, Omohundro Institute- Nicole Eustace, New York University- Rob Parkinson, Shepherd University- Carolyn Brown, Library of Congress.

Photo: Battle of Plattsburgh

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