What I’m working on

I’ve decided to join the academic social network Academia.edu, by far the best of the two or three I’ve seen in this category. Here’s how I summed myself up:

My dissertation is based on the diaries of Lukas Vischer, a Swiss traveler in the United States, 1823-1828. His travels ranged from Canada to the Mississippi Valley, and his notes on American Indians are of particular interest.

Vischer’s documents (at the Staatsarchiv Basel-Stadt, Basel, Switzerland, and in private hands) provide a valuable transatlantic perspective on the “early republic” around the sesquicentennial year, 1826, as well as insight into migration and the meaning of “Amerika” for German-speaking Europeans at this time. Vischer is noted for his subsequent career as an artifact collector in Mexico. His experience of “American antiquities” in the U.S. points toward his later activities in Mexico.

I’m also reading Spanish colonial documents ca. 1813, concerning the province of West Florida, to explore relations between the Creek Nation and Spain during the War of 1812. This is for a conference paper concerning the Burnt Corn battle of July 1813, to be presented in May 2009.

Finally, I’m interested in the history of Brewton, Alabama, and the lower Conecuh valley, and intend to eventually publish something about it. I’ve spent some time with the McMillan family papers in Brewton and the Pace Library archive at the University of West Florida, Pensacola.

I should probably explain that “American antiquities” refers to American Indian artifacts. The relatively vague term accommodates the belief, commonly held in the 1820s, that what we now call the Mississippian civilization must have been established by wandering Eurasians, possibly the lost tribes of Israel.

In other news this week, it finally dawned on me that transcribing all the Lukas Vischer papers, which I photographed in Basel, would take me a total of 42 weeks at 40 hours a week. Clearly I need to change my approach.

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