Jayne Ptolemy 0

Letter of Support for the Hire of a Senior Historian of Colonial America

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Dear President Levin and Fellows of the Yale Corporation,

We write to respectfully request that Yale University continue its legacy of leadership in the field of American history and hire a senior historian of colonial America at the earliest possible opportunity. Additionally, we respectfully request that Yale University hire a leading scholar to cover this field during the interval of the search.

We make these requests because we believe that it is in the University’s long-term interest to maintain its preeminent position in the field of American history. For nearly as long as American history has been taught, those teaching it at this institution have produced foundational scholarship. Within the last hundred years, Charles M. Andrews, Edmund S. Morgan, and John Demos have reshaped how the world imagines the meaning of colonial America. Their scholarship has been seminal not merely because their books have given rise to entire fields of inquiry, but also because their mentorship has shaped succeeding generations of scholars. Colonialists trained at Yale hold positions at leading institutions, publish prize-winning books and articles, and, in turn, inspire those within and beyond the academy to re-envision the significance of this critical era in American history.

We make these requests because Yale has graduate students with current projects and dissertations that require the guidance of a colonial historian. Without institutional access to a faculty member of significant standing in the field of colonial America, these projects may not achieve their full potential. The contributions of the newest generation of colonial scholars are at risk of delay, diminution, and even abandonment if they are not appropriately supported. Further, if Yale seeks to retain its primary status among graduate history programs, then it should offer potential applicants an ability to pursue projects that depend on access to a senior historian of colonial America.

We make these requests because Yale has more undergraduates who have chosen to major in history than in any other department or program. These undergraduates are entitled to a senior scholar to teach the first 300 years of American history, to provide mentorship and support for senior essays exploring topics in this period, and to stimulate continued engagement in the history of colonial America. This newest generation of scholars requires a senior historian of colonial America to encourage and excite them, so that they in turn may be inspired to invigorate the field.

We make these requests because Yale has faculty whose scholarship is enhanced by the presence of a senior colonial American historian. Scholars working in the fields of English, History of Art, American Studies, History of Science and Medicine, Religious Studies, African American Studies, and Native American Studies enrich their own work if they count among their colleagues a colonial American historian of seniority and renown. The ready availability of a senior colonial American historian also enlivens the work of scholars of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as well as that of those interested in comparative colonialism across time or place. Touching on numerous empires, thematically relevant to many eras, colonial American history occupies a pivotal position within and beyond its departmental home or historical particularity.

We make these requests because Yale holds numerous and significant documents, manuscripts, artifacts, and art relevant to colonial America that deserve an audience within this institution. We want our source material to be of interest and value to scholars here at Yale as well as to the broader scholarly community. Yale’s extensive holdings are purchased, donated, maintained, and exhibited to vivify the work of Yale University’s scholars in addition to outside researchers.

In order to remain a powerful voice in the origination and dissemination of knowledge of colonial America, in order to serve scholars of history within and beyond our institution, in order to contribute meaningfully to a complex web of related fields, in order to justify the retention of an extensive and important collection of source material, Yale University should retain a senior historian of colonial America. Until a qualified candidate is in place, Yale University should ensure continuity through the interim hire of a leading scholar of this period.


The Undersigned


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