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CFP: Intellectual Histories of the American Revolution

October 9, 2023

Call for Papers: Intellectual Histories of the American Revolution: Kylemore Abbey, Ireland, August 15 – 17, 2024

How did people change the way they thought about the world during the era of the American Revolution—and how did the way they thought change the world? Ideas and ideologies no longer occupy the central role they once played in the story of the Revolution as told by historians. Yet the advance of revolutionary scholarship has opened up new opportunities for intellectual history. The challenges posed by new forms of social and cultural history, along with the rise of international and continental perspectives, have pushed scholars to develop new ways of thinking about ideas in the era of the Revolution. By revising old assumptions about what thought looks like, redrawing the roster of its actors, sources, and settings, scholars have generated a wellspring of intellectual histories of the American Revolution.

As we approach the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, historians seek to reground debates over the nation’s founding. New intellectual histories should, we believe, be at that project’s core. The Revolution was closely entangled with the emergence of new modes of thought and intellectual practices, from the religious, literary, and scientific, to the legal, economic, and political. It was animated by ideas that moved in unexpected ways among communities and individuals, including those who were most marginalized and whose intellectual lives are often hardest for historians to access. Creative approaches to the archives of past thought-worlds, and to the communication of these histories, are critical to telling better stories of the Revolution. We aim to advance this agenda, gathering new scholarship in dialogue at a symposium to be held at Kylemore Abbey Global Centre, Ireland, August 15 – 17, 2024, with an anticipated volume of selected papers to be published by the University of Virginia Press. Thanks to the generous support of the International Center for Jefferson Studies and the University of Notre Dame, we will provide accommodation for all participants, and cover the costs of travel to and from the conference venue via Dublin. 

We invite proposals for pre-circulated papers of 7,000-9,000 words, which we hope will exemplify the range of approaches, methods, and sources available to intellectual historians of the American Revolution. We encourage submissions from scholars of all backgrounds and at all career stages, including historians working beyond the traditional academy, independent scholars, and doctoral students. We especially welcome papers that will do one or more of the following:

  • Explore the thought and intellectual practices of marginalized or underrepresented groups,
  • Connect local to continental, Atlantic, global, and transnational contexts,
  • Address the horizons and boundaries of “intellectual history” itself,
  • Reflect on sources, methods, and analytical frameworks for intellectual history, including archives and material culture,
  • Assess the place of intellectual history in the historiography of the American Revolution. 

To propose a paper, please send a 500-word abstract and 1–2-page C.V. in a single .PDF or .DOC file to [email protected] by November 15, 2023. Please contact the symposium organizers, Sara Georgini and Tom Cutterham, with any questions.