OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Carole Shammas

Portrait of Carole Shammas

Carole Shammas holds the John R. Hubbard Chair Emerita in History at the University of Southern California and convenes the USC–Huntington Library American Origins seminar associated with the Early Modern Studies Institute. She specializes in the socioeconomic history of North America and the Atlantic world and has written books on inheritance, consumption, household government, and the built environment. She is currently studying the long, torturous process whereby American children mastered the three Rs—reading, writing, and arithmetic—in order to participate in a new information and communications regime that required literacy and numeracy. On that topic she has published articles concerning colonial child labor and the ambivalent role of democratic forces in the promotion of elementary education. Her long-term interest in quantitative research methods and research design continues.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The standard that all children should learn to write and know basic arithmetic as well as to read emerged in the later eighteenth-century, but even today widespread dissatisfaction exists over U.S. children's mastery of these subjects in schools. Why have Americans argued about the performance level of these skills for such a long time?
In the early modern Americas one sees the first steps being taken to diminish the importance of marriage in the formation of households. Western Europeans, West Africans, and American Indians differed among one another and among themselves over who should be in a household, under what terms, and even what a household was. Polygyny and corporate lineage influence became rarer over time but so did monogamy.
This lecture covers debates over the role of capitalism and industrialization in bettering the lot of humankind.
Context is viewed as THE most important contribution made by historians to the study of a problem. Unfortunately, few in the profession acknowledge that the greater the amount of context, the smaller the amount that can be explained.