The Politics of Antisemitism

The term ‘antisemitism’ is rife with political and social connotations. Popularized by German scholar Wilhelm Marr, as a way to distinguish “scientific” hatred of Jews from the more traditional Christian anti-Jewishness the term first came into widespread use in the 1870s. Although the legitimacy of scientific antisemitism has long been discredited, ending generally with the loss of Nazi Germany in World War II, the term has been repurposed and gained widespread acceptance in scholarly circles to describe anti-Jewish, and sometimes anti-Zionist amicus. As Walter Laqueur states in his work The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day “While up until 1945 antisemities did not on the whole mind being called antisemities, there has been since that time indignation on the part of many, however hostile to the Jews, at being painted with the antisemetic brush.” (Laqueur xiii) No longer do those who wish Jews harm control labels associated with antisemitism. Instead, the scholars and pundits discussing and leveling charges of antisemitism are inherently opposed to it, and are generally of Jewish background. Instead of those in embracing the label being the arbitrators of who is or is not an antisemitie, the label is foisted upon those whose actions and words fit the description by scholars and commentators. Because of this, arguments about who is an antisemite and what constitutes antisemitism are inherently rooted in political realities of the time.
The three main texts in discussed in this work all deal with antisemitism in different ways. Leonard Dinnerstein’s Anti-Semitism in America looks specifically at anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions in the United States. Dinnerstein is considered one of the most prolific chroniclers of American Jewry by American Jewish scholars and in this paper, his work is being held up as an example of the scholarly consensus concerning antisemitism in America. Robert Wistrich’s A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad is an extremely polemical work whose thesis is that the Arab world is the latest in a long line of civilizations that wish Jews harm. His is an example of a work that links anti-Zionism to antisemitism and embraces the political connotations of such an endeavor. Walter Laqueur’s The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day is a much more scholarly, yet still polemical. In addition, this work will bring in other works that deal with antisemitism, including Peter Novick’s The Holocaust in American Life as well as Benzion Netanyahu’s The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain. All of the scholars discussed in this work research broadly in the field of Jewish history, which makes their work interesting on a number of levels. To begin, they are dealing with non-Jews leveling accusations at Jews. Leonard Dinnerstein the author of Anti-Semitism in America is a noted scholar of American Jewry who was a professor at the University of Arizona before retiring. Robert Wistrich, the author of A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad is a professor of European history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Walter Laqueur the author of The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day is a journalist who has taught variously at colleges and universities throughout Israel, the United States, and Europe.
While all of these scholars come from different backgrounds, they are similar in their view that antisemitism is not something that came out of the modern world, as the original users of the word intended, but as something eternal and unending. All of the authors place the roots of antisemitism in the pre-modern world and see a continuous line between early and medieval Christian oppression of Jews and modern antisemitism. (Laqueur x, Dinnerstein ix, Wistrich 17) A line that, it should be noted, would be considered anathema to the earliest antisemities. Reflecting the scholarly consensus, Laqueur writes, “But the break in continuity between modern and pre-modern antisemitism must not, for a variety of reasons, be overemphasized. Racialist antisemitism can be found (for instance in Spain) many centuries before its appearance in Central Europe.” (Laqueur 13)
This idea of pushing back the origins of racialized antisemitism and linking it to Christian antisemitism was made prominent by scholar Benzion Netanyahu, who, in addition to being a prolific chronicler of medieval and early modern Spanish Jewry, was also associated with the Israeli conservative movement. Netanyahu argued in his 1995 work The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain, “For what they [documents] showed, beyond any doubt, was that the standard accusation that the Marranos [Spanish Jews] were ‘Jews’ was a weapon of a vilifying propaganda; that the evidence offered in support of that charge bears all the symptoms of a popular invention; and that consequently the religious condition of the Marranos could offer no justification, and therefore no real reason for the establishment of the Inquisition.” (Netanyahu xxiii) Netanyahu, a right wing Zionist was making deep political implications with his scholarly arguments. The Zionist movement is predicated on the argument that Jews will only be safe from discrimination in their own homeland. The idea that converted Jews in early modern Spain were faced with continued persecution after they converted lends credence to the argument that Jews without a homeland were at the mercy of malevolent governments and without power in the countries they lived in.
After Netanyahu’s death in 2012, Jonathan Spyer, columnist for the right wing Jerusalem Post wrote an obituary in Tablet magazine wherein Benzion Netanyahu was lionized for his influential role in Israeli politics, with no mention made of his scholarly contributions. Instead, Spyer wrote, “The man who would go on to make the Likud [right wing Israeli party] and the Israeli right synonymous with his own name from the mid-1990s and until today was Benzion Netanyahu’s son, Benjamin.” (Likud’s Great Grandfather Tablet Magazine May 2012) While Netanyahu was a prolific scholar who taught at the University of Pennsylvania, his scholarship was greatly informed by his politics and it is very hard, if not downright impossible, to separate the two.
Walter Laqueur’s study of antisemitism is perhaps the most personally motivated. He writes, “I belong to the last surviving members of a generation that lived through European antisemitism in its most extreme form, in contrast to later students of antisemitism for whom the subject was by necessity an abstract or at least remote phenomenon.” (Laqueur x) While he is the only one of the authors featured in this study to make such a direct connection, this statement is very telling. Even, or in some cases especially, for professional scholars working in the field of Jewish studies, antisemitism is a very personal thing that they or their families have experienced. Part of what makes the study of antisemitism so inherently polemical is that the ‘worst case scenario’ has already existed. It is not impossible to imagine a modern nation state with antisemitism as one of its major principals because that state has existed before. In discussing the impact of the Holocaust on American Jewish collective identity, Historian Peter Novick argues: “If the Holocaust defied rational explanation, who could know what trivial event might be the precursor to ‘the ovens’? With this mindset, there could be no such thing as overreaction to an anti-Semitic incident, no such thing as exaggerating the omnipresent danger.” (Novick 178) This assumption that any instance of anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist action or even rhetoric potentially leads to another Holocaust has lead to a trend, best exemplified by Wistrich, of scholars discovering potential antisemitism everywhere they look.
Although his focus is on the American tradition, Leonard Dinnerstein also takes the long view in exploring antisemitism. In his 1994 work Antisemitism in America historian Dinnerstein argues, “Antisemitism is a real and ignoble part of America’s cultural heritage. It was brought to the new world by the first settlers, instilled by Christian teachings, and continually reinforced by successive waves of Protestants and Catholics who populated American shores.” (Dinnerstein x) Thus, according to this line of thinking, the American political and religious tradition is rooted in animosity towards Jews. Although Dinnerstein does acknowledge a post-World War II decline in antisemitism, his study is still hyper-vigilant in terms of concern for anti-Jewish sentiment in the United States. (Dinnerstein 178)
This fear of nascent antisemitism lurking in all corners has led scholars to charge those on the political left of creating an ostensibly new form of antisemitism. No coincidently, the first chapter of Laqueur’s book is titled “new antisemitism”. It is a concept that has been touted by multiple scholars working in the field. Dinnerstein also warms of the rise of new antisemitism permeating from the left in the 1960s and 70s. (Dinnerstein 197) In this ostensible new form of Jew hatred, the new antisemities are those who were once allies with the Jews. According to this theory, new antisemitism is a rejection of Jews by the global left. Whereas existential threats to Jews were previously seen as coming out of nationalist sentiment originating on the political right, new antisemitism has its origins on the anti-imperialist left. For American Jews, according to Novick this meant a retrenchment away from the civil rights movement and toward their own communities. (Novick 170-171) For scholars on the political left such as Novick, this threat of antisemitism was not a real threat. For more conservative scholars of antisemitism such as the University of Oklahoma’s Stephen H. Norwood, the American Far Left was the greatest threat to the safety of American Jewry. In his work Antisemitism and the American Far Left, Norwood connects the idea of eternal antisemitism with leftist politics: “The Black Panther Party, which identified as Marxist-Leninist made similar charges [relating to Israeli imperialism] rooted in a tradition of economic antisemitism dating to medieval Europe.” (Norwood 1)
Robert Wistrich’s A Lethal Obsession is much more polemical than Laqueur, or Dinnerstein’s work. Like Novick and his arguments are rooted in modern political views. Wistrich, affiliated with the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his work, Wistrich offers a narrative of eternal antisemitism, with his work arguing that the one thing that links very disparate and different peoples is their eternal hatered for Jews: “At one time a major feature of medieval Christianity, it [antisemitism] has been annexed by the Islamists and other Muslims convinced that the “evil Jews” are moving history forward to its climax.” (Wistrich 74) Although the title of Wistrich’s work suggests that his is a careful study of the subject discussing the term’s context and evolution, it is much more a teleological polemic, in a sense warning Jews that they should be and remain hyper vigilant to the threat posed by antisemitism. “In Christian (and then Muslim) theology, Jews and Judaism became the perennial symbol of secret powers and dark forces that could threaten the triumph of their dogmatic and universalistic creeds. In the modern era, the Jew became the Antichrist, Satan, and master conspirator rolled into one-a primary obstacle to universal redemption.” (Wistrich 76-77) This symbolic connection between Jews and everything negative, argues Wistrich, is what makes antisemitism so universal and dangerous.
What makes the study of the evolution of antisemitism so challenging is that the term is loaded not only with racial and ethnic implications, but also political implications. All of the works discussed, especially Wistrich’s and Novick’s are very polemical. Wistrich closes his work with a warning: “The Holocaust that the Nazis carried out during the war would be simultaneously justified in Hitler’s last testament of 1945 as an act of self-defense and as a liberation of humanity from the Jewish plague. If we substitute the word ‘Zionist’ for ‘Jew,’ a similar message is currently being propagated by Tehran and its allies.” (Wistrich 930) This connection between the genocide that took the lives of the majority of Europe’s Jews and a modern political actor who has threatened the Jewish state of Israel on multiple occasions demonstrates how politics shapes debates around antisemitism. While it can certainly be argued that all scholarly work has a presentist bent, the study of antisemitism has a decided urgency to it. When one examines the scholarly debate surrounding antisemitism, one discovers that it is not ultimately possible to remove concerns about the present from the study of antisemitism in the past. This is due mainly to the sense that antisemitism is something eternal and unchanging. Antisemitism does not end, according to these studies, but only takes different forms. The historiography has remained fairly steady since the late 1990s, with scholars on the left generally questioning the prevalence, or at least the danger, of antisemitism and those on the right arguing that it is a rising force in global politics.
-Dinnerstein, Leonard. Antisemitism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
-Laqueur, Walter. The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient times to the Present Day. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
-Norwood, Stephen H. Antisemitism and the American Far Left. New York: Cambridge, 2013.
-Novick, Peter. The Holocaust in American Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
-Netanyahu, B. The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain. New York: Random House, 1995.
-Wistrich, Robert S. A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad. New York: Random House, 2010.

Slavery in New York State in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Historiography

The state of New York has long been known as a primarily liberal state. Additionally, New York was on the northern side of the American Civil War, lending substantial amounts of troops, supplies and support to the anti-slavery Union cause. Regardless of the fundamentally abolitionist inclinations that existed in New York by the mid-nineteenth century, New York State and, by extension, the city of Albany, was a major point of convergence for both the Dutch and English slave trades. Additionally, many New York State residents, including notable historical figures, owned slaves. This paper will examine the viewpoints of various historians regarding the general attitude towards slavery and blacks in New York State during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The 2005 book, Slavery in New York is a collection of essays compiled and edited by Ira Berlin and Leslie M. Harris that all discuss the fact that New York State was a slave state for more of its existence than it was not. Berlin and Harris’s decision to compile essays on this topic was catalyzed by the discovery of an African burial ground in lower Manhattan in 1991. The essays in Slavery in New York argue that, not only did New York State and its inhabitants actively participate in the slave trade and the practice of owning slaves, but New York City had one of the highest slave populations in the United States during the eighteenth century, surpassed solely by Charleston, South Carolina. Many of the essays in Slavery in New York contend that it is wholly unsurprising that New York was once a thriving slave state, as it was large and relatively prosperous from its beginnings and, prior to the coming of the Industrial Revolution to the United States, cities were heavily reliant upon slaves for production (Berlin & Harris, 8). One of the essays featured in Slavery in New York, “A World of Possibilities: Slavery and Freedom in Dutch New Amsterdam” by Christopher Moore highlights the fact that a very prominent figure in New York’s history, Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Director General of the New Netherland Colony (1647-1664) for whom many landmarks in the state are named, was a known slave holder: “Many of the slaves on Stuyvesant’s bowery were company slaves whose work included building the forts. Stuyvesant used enslaved Africans as a first line of defense against the Esopus” (Moore, 20). Thus, the essay not only exposes Stuyvesant as an active participant in the practice of slavery, but also presents the fact that slaves were responsible for building forts and, therefore, the defense of the colony, a feat generally attributed to white European men in the annals of history. The revelation of the extensive use of slavery demonstrates Moore’s view that New York was, in many ways, built upon the foundation of slavery.
Another essay included in Slavery in New York, “The Long Death of Slavery” by Patrick Rael, also examines the fact that most cities in the United States were dependent upon slave labor during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the inherent difficulties associated with ending slavery, even in northern states, due to that reliance. Rael states that the institution of slavery was deeply ingrained in the country’s roots, as federal rulings existed that guaranteed political prestige for slaveholders, and that these were enforced in the Constitution. Unlike Moore, Rael implies that slavery may have continued in the United States if it were not for the actions of enslaved Africans themselves. In addition to the efforts to gain freedom by those who were enslaved, Rael asserts that there was pressure building in the western world to provide equality amongst all people: “The Atlantic-wide revolutions that mainland colonists inaugurated in 1775 soon struck other European empires, challenging the young nation to grapple with the logistical limits of its dedication to universal principles of human equality” (Rael, 38) In articulating these points, Rael builds upon Moore’s idea that all of the United States, including New York, was built with a fundamental dependence upon slavery, but goes on to suggest that slavery may have persevered in northern states if had not been for social pressures from the western world for the United States to live up to its reputation and discomfiture due to anti-slavery efforts made by slaves themselves.
David N. Gellman’s 2008 book, Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827 states that, due to an extended internal debate regarding whether slavery fit in with the state’s values, New York was amongst the last of the northern states to take a stance against slavery. Gellman shares Moore’s view that the bustling industry present in New York State contributed toward the difficulty associated with ending the practice of slavery. Emancipating New York also discusses that fact that, not only was New York a state where slavery played a much greater role than most other northern states, but New York also began to officially oppose slavery much later than even its immediate neighbors, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Unlike Moore or Rael, Gellman examines the extenuating conditions in these surrounding states that made may have led to earlier advocacy of abolition, such as the presence of the peace and equality loving Quakers in Pennsylvania and the shorter history of slavery in Massachusetts: “While Quaker activists in New York played a prominent role in opposing slavery, Quakers were a much more marginal group in New York than Pennsylvania. The mechanism for abolition was quite different as well in Massachusetts. No New York court would have dared to pronounce a blanket condemnation of slavery as the Supreme Judicial Court did in that state” (Gellman, 4). In discussing New York’s relative reluctance to declare its opposition to slavery compared to other nearby states, Gellman implies that New York was more internally divided than other states during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Gellman also explains New York’s background as it relates to its eighteenth century ties to slavery. He states that when New York was settled by the Dutch during the early seventeenth century, the area was utilized by as a center of trade for the Dutch East India Company, the country for which Henry Hudson was employed when he came upon the area now known as Albany. Thus, the Hudson River, which connects major ports in New York State, such as New York City and Albany, to the Atlantic Ocean was used to facilitate the Dutch slave trade. Gellman goes on to express his belief that New York clung on to slavery during the period that the colony was transitioning from Dutch to British control, as it was felt that slavery was a basic right for white men and that it was being threatened by the British: “As New Yorkers unsuspectingly lurched into a continental showdown with British authority, black bondage remained a deeply ingrained aspect of the world whites sought to defend from what they deemed to be British infringements on colonial rights” (Gellman, 16) Thus, in Emancipating New York, David Gellman argues that New York’s relatively long practice of slavery was a result of the influences of imperial rule.
In the 2006 book, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth Century Manhattan, author Jill Lepore is far less apologetic than Moore, Rael, and Gellman in regards to the responsibility of New Yorkers for the continuation of the institution of slavery. Lepore underscores the irony of the fact that the terms “liberty” and “slavery” were both articulated by New York’s most prominent figures, and that many of the white men in the state who verbalized their opposition to slavery owned slaves: “That calls for liberty came from a world of slavery has been named the central paradox of American history” (Lepore, 18). New York Burning does not blame the United States as a whole for this “paradox,” but rather isolates New York as, after the occurrence of multiple fires over a brief period of time in Manhattan in 1741, two hundred slaves were convicted for arson and murder, of which “thirteen black men were burned at the stake” and “seventeen more were hanged.” Lepore uses a response to these executions, written by an anonymous New Englander, in which New Yorkers are accused of treating blacks in their state just as badly as suspected witches were treated during the seventeenth century Salem With Trials to assert her stance that the treatment of slaves and blacks in New York State in the eighteenth century was singular, and not merely a reflection of the cultural paradigm existent in the United States at that point in history.
Lepore continues her examination of the practice of slavery in ways that were unique to New York State by purporting that slavery was fundamental part of New York’s politics: “Slavery was always and everywhere a political issue, but what happened in New  York suggests that it exerted a more powerful influence on political life: slaves suspected of conspiracy constituted both a phantom political party and an ever-        threatening revolution” (Lepore, 52).  New York Burning cites an event that occurred during the summer of 1741, when a now extinct political party known as the Court Party in New York faced contention from another defunct political party, the Country Party, and became the group responsible for the aforementioned burning of slaves at the stake after the series of fires in Manhattan. In including this point, Lenore seems to be implying that the issues of slavery and the methods of quelling perceived slave rebellions, were being utilized by political parties in New York State in order to rally support from citizens.
James and Michelle Nevius’s 2014 book, Footprints in New York: Tracing the Lives of Four Centuries of New Yorkers, focuses on the lives of specific families in New York’s history. Through one of these families, the Delanceys, the authors demonstrate that, not only was slavery an intrinsic part of New York State’s politics and industry, but also the domestic lives of the state’s inhabitants. This is illustrated in Footprints in New York through the fact that the patriarch of the Delancey family, Stephen Delancey, was, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, a successful merchant and trader whose fortune was built through the use of slaves, and whose son, James Delancey, had grown up in a world in which utilizing slaves in the household was an ordinary act: “His eldest son, James, grew up in a world where slavery was the norm, and Africans could be passed on as property, just like furniture or a house” (Nevius & Nevius, 26) James and Michelle Nevius acknowledge that Stephen Delancey’s children did eventually inherit his slaves in his will, as did many children of slaveholders during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Though eventually, as slavery was slowly phased out in New York State beginning in 1799, and many slaves were freed in their master’s wills, Footprints in New York emphasizes the notion that household slaves being passed from generation to generation through bequests was an obstacle to entirely eradicating the practice of slavery in New York State.
Through the facts presented in these works, it is clear that the practice of slavery was a major part of various aspects of life in New York State. It is also evident from that the authors feel that New York’s politics, society, industry, and inhabitant’s family lives were all tied to the institution of slavery in a way that differed from surrounding northern states, which would account for why New York was amongst the last of the northern states to officially declare itself opposed to slavery. Additionally, a remarkable number of the authors of texts relating to slavery in New York State do not make extensive excuses for the residents of the state for their continuation of the practice of slavery.



Berlin, Ira, and Leslie M. Harris. Slavery in New York. New York: New Press, 2005.


Gellman, David N. “Labor, Law and Resistance in the Eighteenth Century.” In Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.


Lepore, Jill. “Fire.” In New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth Century Manhattan. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.


Moore, Christopher. “A World of Possibilities : Slavery and Freedom in Dutch New Amsterdam.” In Slavery in New York. New York: New Press, 2005.


Nevius, James. “The Delanceys and New York’s Lost Century.” In Footprints in New York: Tracing the Lives of Four Centuries of New Yorkers, edited by Michelle Nevius. Guilford: Lyons Press, 2014.


Rael, Patrick. “The Long Death of Slavery.” In Slavery in New York. New York: New Press, 2005.


Historiography of settler-colonialism

In the 1960s, historians and scholars in related disciplines began to analyze the recent decolonization happening across the globe. Because decolonization was such a recent political issue, the study of colonialism, decolonization, and post-colonialism easily extended into other fields beyond historical study. Scholars across these fields began to formulate terms, methodologies, and categories for understanding the process of decolonization. This became problematic as fields, even within the social sciences or humanities, do not necessarily speak to each other very easily. Differences in terminology, coupled with the roughly five hundred year time span making up the colonial period, resulted in a variety of fascinating studies of colonialism and decolonization but also the creation of a very broad field riddled with fractures and limitations.
Frederick Cooper speaks to exactly these issues in his 2005 book Colonialism in Question. He asks, “How can one study colonial societies, keeping in mind—but not being paralyzed by—the fact that the tools of analysis we use emerged from the history we are trying to examine?” (Cooper, 4) While he finds value in the work on colonialism published between 1970 and 2005, the field was too tightly bounded as the “colonial” period, cut off from surrounding time periods. He argues that future historians should reconsider colonialism’s place in history, keeping in mind the possible dangers of un-bounding the period and its legacy on the way history is written. Cooper criticizes how the field of history has limited the study of colonialism in particular. Because historians have certain standards they must live up to, like publishing in certain journals, historians are limited in how far they are willing to go with their analysis. He also finds the “turns” in history problematic because historians find one aspect of the history most important at a particular moment, something he refers to as the “bandwagon effect.” (Cooper, 5)
By focusing on specific conceptual and methodological issues, Cooper believes he and future historians can avoid the problems that have previously plagued the field. Rather than a series of turns, he sees colonial histories as “overlapping and often conflicting perspectives, all in relation to the shifting politics of decolonization.” (Cooper, 7) His book reads as a historiography of colonialism and a guide for future work in the field. He focuses on “identity, globalization, and modernity.” While these terms are frequently used in the field, he believes historians need to explore the contexts in which they are being used so as to avoid analytic categories that obscure what they meant to historical actors. Cooper specifically explores the issues surrounding “globalization” because it “distorts the history of empires and colonization in order to fit into a story with a predetermined end.” (Cooper, 10) Mindful of the limitations of the concepts he criticizes, he reimagines colonialism over a longer period of time. Rather than seeing empires as nation-states projecting power outside their borders, he sees them as powers who were all concerned with incorporating people and territories. This allows him to analyze both European and non-European empires over the long-term. (Cooper, 11)
Cooper briefly discusses the United States as an empire and the problems it poses to the study of colonialism. He argues that while the nation-state has only been seen as the main form of sovereignty since the 1960s when the last empires collapsed, historians project this form of government onto the past as the only place where sovereignty can stem from. This obscures the differences between imperial and national empires and the different ways their subjects resisted them. (Cooper, 24) Cooper argues that the United States was especially unique, because even though its form of empire was not static and the power of the U.S. changed over time, “the United States may well have become a nation-state because it pretended to be one.” (Cooper, 195) The ways in which the United States incorporated new territories as equal parts allowed them to marginalize Native Americans from the nation in much the same ways other European powers did. Because theirs was a continental empire, the United States could carry on imperial activities by another name.
Joanne Barker analyzes exactly this issue that Cooper points to regarding the power of the United States. While sovereignty is an ancient term, colonists used it to negate “indigenous territorial rights and humanity which justified the right of conquest by claims to national superiority.” (Barker, 5) Because of this, only nations could possess sovereignty and the United States used this reasoning to dispossess indigenous peoples and justify the idea of Manifest Destiny. Constitutions and treaties were the primary ways sovereign nations articulated their sovereignty internationally. The strategies used by colonial powers to establish their sovereignty and have it recognized internationally bring up questions of the place of indigenous sovereignty. If the U.S. and other powers sign treaties with indigenous groups, is indigenous sovereignty recognized under international law? Why, then, have indigenous rights been disrupted through treaty making? She argues colonial powers see treaties with indigenous groups as part of their domestic policy. Rather than attributing the same rights to indigenous groups as to other sovereign nations under international law, colonial powers “defined sovereignty through the attributes of territorial integrity and jurisdiction.” (Barker, 5)Clearly, there is a contradiction in U.S. colonial actions that specifically targets indigenous peoples for marginalization.
Barker’s analysis of sovereignty and treaty making brings up broader questions about the use of European etymologies for indigenous groups. Why would sovereignty matter to indigenous people if it is not a concept that fully captures their understandings of law, territory, and government? After World War II, in what Cooper calls the post-colonial period, indigenous people also began to articulate their rights through the use of “sovereignty.” While the term was not new to them, in this period it allowed them to forward their political agendas and social movements to reclaim territory and resources. In the U.S., it allowed them indigenous groups to claim a special status as “peoples” rather than simply another minority group living within U.S. borders. (Barker, 19) Barker argues “…to understand how it matters and for whom, sovereignty must be situated within the historical and cultural relationships in which it is articulated.”(Barker, 26)
The connection between territory and sovereignty is a common thread running through all histories of colonial studies, but especially histories of settler-colonialism. In Mark Rifkin’s 2009 book Manifesting America, Rifkin engages Barker’s arguments about sovereignty to explain how and why the modern United States came into being. He points to the same territorial inclusion and indigenous exclusion, arguing that the United States reimagined “land formerly beyond the purview of U.S. governance as intimately embedded in national space; and produc[ed] subjectivities for involuntary interiorized peoples that are designed to testify to their non-coerced acceptance of their place in national life.” (Rifkin, 6) Unlike Barker, Rifkin is more concerned with the physical space of the nation than the sovereignty claimed based on that space. Rifkin also points to the way the United States envisioned itself as a nation-state, asserting that “the insistence…on the inherent coherence and contiguity of national geography suggests that political pressure coalesced around the image of unbroken unity within American borders.” (Rifkin, 5) The assertion by the United States that it was and always has been a united nation denies its role as an imperial power, justifying territorial inclusion and indigenous exclusion. The existence of a nation flattens conflicting claims over territory and jurisdiction, making the existence and power of the United States “incontestable.” Because of this, Indian policy is seen as outside of the norm rather than as the crux of U.S. power. Rifkin argues that there does not need to be a “categorical distinction between imperialism and republicanism” because in the case of the United States they are one in the same. (Rifkin, 13) This reality makes it even more difficult for indigenous people within the territory claimed by the United States to assert their rights and sovereignty.
Historian Lauren Benton is also concerned with the mapping of physical spaces as a tool of empire. While focusing more broadly on European empires, like Rifkin, Benton points to the difference between colonial aspiration and the reality of control on the ground. Rather than mirroring the monochrome shading of imperial maps, imperial possessions were often “uneven, disaggregated, and oddly shaped.” (Benton, 2) Not only did imperial territories have varying levels of actual imperial control, Benton argues there were variations in the agents of empire, from pirates to travelers, who brought with them varying degrees of imperial loyalty and authority adding to the patchwork nature of these territories. (Benton, 3)
Previously, historians have read the unevenness of territorial rule as a temporary stage on the way to a solidified imperial rule. But Benton argues that this is to project backward the idea that territory was the defining element of sovereignty. As Cooper and Barker also argue, the marriage of sovereignty to territory is a post-nineteenth century ideal. While throughout the colonial period territory was a part of colonial control, Benton argues that other “spheres of influence” also played a significant role in how empires envisioned their power. (Benton, 3)Even with the creation of modern nation-states, territorial power was still uneven especially, as Rifkin points out, in the United States. While historians may find the use of imperial mapping Eurocentric, Benton finds that cartography was in no way limited to European powers, as both Muslim and Asian empires influenced and were influenced by European cartography. Also, indigenous understandings of space shaped the ways European cartographers imagined physical space. Because indigenous ideas of territoriality were not all that different from European ideas, historians can see “the ways that Europeans invoked existing geographic categories in imagining ‘new’ worlds.” (Benton, 14)
Each of these books ties together geography, law, and sovereignty together in unique yet intersecting ways. Together they reveal the similarities across imperial powers. Each empire found ways to express sovereignty through bounding physical spaces (whether on maps or in power on the ground), extending legal jurisdiction (often in uneven ways) over these spaces, and organizing and marginalizing the indigenous peoples they encountered. The historians who study this process, while approaching it from very different backgrounds, have created a coherent study which now more frequently includes indigenous peoples as prominent historical actors. While in 2005, Cooper was frustrated with the boundaries and limitations on the field as a whole, in analyzing works on colonialism and settler-colonialism since then, the long-term continuity Cooper was calling for seems to have been realized. “We know sovereignty when we see it…Yet we also know that sovereignty is often more myth than reality, more a story that polities tell about their own power than a definite quality they possess.” (Benton, 279) This idea is now recognized by all historians working in the field of colonial studies. There are many, many long-term studies of European colonial powers. Now, these methodologies and categories of analyses would be best suited for a broader study of the U.S. as an imperial power. While historians like Rifkin and Barker have begun this process, the unique character of the United States as an imperial power requires further exploration to place Native American action and resistance into a larger, global context.


Barker, Joanne, ed. Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-      Determination. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Benton, Lauren. A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900. New York: Cambridge   University Press, 2009.

Cooper, Frederick. Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

Rifkin, Mark. Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of U.S. National Space. Oxford; New York: Oxford University    Press, 2009.

Prominent Dutch Families in Albany Walking Tour

Beginning in 1609, when Dutch explorer, Henry Hudson, came upon the area today known as Albany while sailing his ship, the Halfmoon, on the river that now bears his name, Albany was settled by a number of Dutch families, many of which established prominence in the area. Amongst these families were the Van Rensselaers, the Schuylers, and the Ten Broecks. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these families repeatedly intermarried, growing in both wealth and power. They were responsible for the construction of a handful of now historic homes in Albany, including Schuyler Mansion, Cherry Hill, Ten Broeck Mansion, Fort Crailo, and the Van Rensselaer Manor House. With the exception of the Van Rensselaer Manor House, which was demolished in 1973, all of these homes are still existent and are now open to the public as museums. This tour will bring you to each of these historic sites and provide the necessary background to appreciate their role in Albany’s history.

J Cassidy Charts

John Cassidy
Spreadsheet Write-up
HIS 596
For the spreadsheet project I examined the clothing and alcohol industries. The two should offer an interesting compare contrast because according to the census the alcohol industry in 1850 Albany no women were employed in the breweries or distilleries whereas the clothing or textile industry is remembered for employing large numbers of women. What the data revealed however is that within the industry in 1850 is that there were 194 women employed in clothing businesses but this is dwarfed by the 343 men also employed in clothing. Moving on to income the median wages in the overall cleaned census was $104 for men and $40 for women, what is important to realize with these numbers are that this is the median of wages paid out by a business not individual salaries so the average wage would be considerably lower. The $64 difference between the two figures still shows a heavy preference toward males when it comes to income this coupled with the massive gap in employment in clothing which is considered a large employer of women confirms bias toward the idea of the male head of household being the primary earner. Something else shown in the data is that the alcohol industry was a skilled profession, in the overall population the median male wage was $104 but in the alcohol business the median wage was $162 which is a 64% difference in wages. This 64% gap shows that alcohol was a skilled profession because in addition to the overall pool of wages being larger only 123 men worked in this industry so fewer workers shared a larger amount pool of money leading to a significantly higher average wage for alcohol. Lastly in regard to wages the clothing industry paid its women $40 which according to the data was exactly the average wage for a woman in the Albany era in 1850. For men in the clothing industry the $104 they were paid while noticeably higher than their female coworkers is also exactly the median for men of their era so what we see is that on both sides of gender the textile workers fall exactly in to the middle of earners by business but with their high numbers the take home per person would be below the median displayed by the data particularly for women as clothing contains a large percentage of the overall employed female population. Also the two industries combined paid out $25776.60 out of Albany’s total payout of $30643.60 according to the cleaned census but as it is again a sanitized data pool so the true ratio is most likely much less one sided. Regardless the data does show that the two industries produced a very significant portion of the gross product of the city in 1850. This coincides with data I found detailing Albany’s place as a major center for breweries in the pre-prohibition era particularly because America’s current beer capital Milwaukee was still a developing area and with the lack of refrigeration made transporting a perishable commodity like beer to or from the East Coast to the Midwest and Albany’s location close to the Eastern seaboard and the river access provided by the Hudson River allowed the Albany breweries to rapidly bring their products to major markets.



M. Chamberlain Census Charts

The first chart in this series is one that examines the differences in the number of men and women in the clothing industry in 1850. While the men still make up two-thirds of the workforce in this case, women still account for about a third. When this is compared with other types of industry, the numbers are much lower, and for the most part, women aren’t even a part of the workforce. This is why I chose to make this into a chart because the other industries didn’t have many women in the workforce, which makes the clothing industry the exception. However, just because women make up a fair portion of the labor force in the clothing industry doesn’t mean they were paid the same amount. On the contrary, with a few exceptions women make much less than their male counterparts. In the second scatter-plot chart, the wage disparity becomes clear. This is seen in the highest median wage for men and women. In the case of women, the highest median wage was $165, which is dwarfed by the highest men’s median wage of $465. This trend is seen in the rest of the data when applicable, as women are either paid less, or are excluded entirely from certain industries (alcohol, construction, luxury, and transportation are completely male, while food, household, and publishing have a couple of women, but are effectively also entirely male dominated). If I was able, I’d like to see data from 1860, just to see whether or not women gained more of a foothold in other industries beyond clothing.

The second set of charts relates to the makeup of industry in Albany in 1850. At this point in time, Albany was dominated by two industries (according to the data): clothing and manufacturing, which accounted for 28% and 27% respectively. In contrast, the weakest industry in Albany was publishing, which made up less than one percent of the labor force. This may show that during the mid-19th century, there was more of a need for clothing and manufactured goods than paper. This could be explained with the fact that at this point in time, the Erie Canal was still a major economic powerhouse in New York. The canal would have impacted trade, and made the products of some industries more desirable than others. When the median number of workers is examined, there isn’t a great difference between most of the industries. When the median number of workers was taken from the median number from each industry, the number was about six, so there isn’t a large amount of deviation in this case. This shows that in most cases, Albany was dominated by smaller shops operating with a handful of employees. While there were some larger businesses, small shops seemed to have been more prevalent.

Most of the charts the data produced were easy to understand, the only one that may produce some confusion was the scatter-plot of men’s vs women’s wages. This was probably my fault because I did run into some technical difficulties when doing the functions for the wages. However, in most cases, the information is clearly shown, and it is easy to draw conclusions from the charts.

Eric’s Charts

My first set of charts shows the split between consumer, alcohol, and industrial, agricultural work. While the chart is not large enough to definitively show the urbanization of Albany, the fact that the vast majority of workers in 1850 were employed in consumer based industries shows a shift from an agricultural based society towards one that was industrializing. One could use this information alongside additional information about rural to urban migration or a data set on when businesses were established in order to show either the growth of urban Albany or the decline of rural areas and population shifts over time.
My second chart shows the differences in wages between men working in construction as compared to men working in construction. The large difference in wages possibly demonstrates the gendering of employment with those working in clothing, a traditionally less stereotypically male profession making far less money than those working in construction, a field that is traditionally male dominated. In addition, it could potentially demonstrate differences in ethnic labor. In order to say this definitively, however, we must have more information available to us, as nothing in the data except for last names, which are not necessarily indicative of ethnic identity. In order to get that information, one would have to find an additional data set concerning ethnic identity.
My biggest difficulty was in deciding how I wanted to filter and use the information. While the charts give one a lot of baseline information to work with, it is still up to the historian to decide what they will focus on and what the data says to them. A chart filled with data is not of any use unless one is able to contextualize it and use it alongside other data to make an argument.
In addition, the information that is available in some cases left me wishing that there was more data to work with. Information such as the ages of people, or their ethnic background would have greatly helped me in getting a better grasp of the information that I was working with.
While I do not think that any of my charts are particularly hard to read, I found the pie chart breakdown of types of employment to be the easiest to read of the charts. While the line graph does do a very good of showing the various industries, the pie chart breaks them down into percentages. In addition, the pie chart is multicolored which helps to differentiate between the industries. The line graph on my second set is better than my scatterplot because it does a much clearer job of showing the differences between wages.

Intro to Spreadsheets

For the data from sheet 1, I compared median wages of all men and median wages of all women using a bar graph and a histogram. The story told based on both these charts is fairly straight forward, showing that men made higher wages than women. The data from sheet 2, I compared the median number of male workers in the food, alcohol, publishing, luxury, and clothing industries. I also compared the median wages of the men in those industries. The story told by those charts shows how many men were working in each industry and compared typical wages for each industry. Beyond the technical, the main issue I encountered was putting the data in a larger context and finding value in information that I have not previously researched. Because all we have is the information in the industry census, it is difficult to answer the question “why is this important?” which is usually what historians ask first. What is the point of comparing the median of male employees in certain industries and the median of their wages? We can find out what was typical for wages in Albany for male employees between the industries and as a whole between men and women in the 1860s, but with the absence of corresponding primary sources, analysis of the data cannot be taken much further than that. Generally, I think historians would try to determine if any of their data is out of the ordinary, but the stories told in my graphs do not present information that is surprising. Both the scatter plots and the bar graphs seem to be most helpful for comparison. The scatter plot is helpful in showing what overlaps and what does not. The bar graph and histogram show the same type of comparative relationship, but the way the data is displayed in separate columns makes the overlap less obvious.


The first chart is a histogram of the sum of the kinds of industry.It clearly illustrates that the clothing industry was very active in the City of Albany in 1850. In the second chart,a column graph, there is a definite conclusion-that men made up the majority of the workforce in most industries during this time, and were even the only gender present in certain places of work. The third chart, a pie graph, shows the counta of each of the industries, with Household work making up the largest percentage. In the last chart, a scatter plot, womens vs. mens wages is show.The conclusion made from this last graph is that men made significantly more than women even in many of the same jobs, along with the column chart illustrates the gender inequality of this period, most visibly in the scant earnings women made compared to men.
One aspect of working with this data is the gaps within some of the information. Of course with records that are sometimes illegible or have some kind of error, the data is not going to be completely indicative of the survey. That said, perhaps there was some data left out that could have made a more powerful statement. Of course the most glaring is the general lack of women workers in the data. There are some, but it is positively overwhelmed by the amount of male workers. I feel that if more information was gathered,than the data and the charts could have proven more enlightening to the story behind this industrial census. Also, at times, it seems like no real relationships could be seen from the data I was uncovering. It seemed that finding the median and sum was only contributing to finding numerical accounts of history, rather than personal and meaningful. The mathematical practice of plugging numbers into a formula was redundant at times. Only after generating the different kinds of charts did I truly see the fruits of my labor. By finding the median,counta,and sum, I was only adding to the narrative that the original information had began.
The pie chart and the histogram are easy to read because they are from the more complete data sets and they also include a lot less information than the other charts. The two others, the column and scatterplot are more complicated because they have to do with the strong inequalities between men and women in Albany’s 1850 workforce. The column in particular is completely jumbled and nearly impossible to read and decipher. The pie chart is meant to express the number of shops in each industry, while the histogram represents the number of workers in each industry. The column chart indicates the relationship between the number of men and women in each industry, while scatterplot shows the relationship between the wages of men and women in 1850. All in all, it can be said that business in Albany, with the data given, was a male-dominated world. I feel that with more exploration, perhaps a more complete story can be told. Perhaps more information could be found that gives women a more expanded role in commerce at this time.

J Cassidy Embedded Links Albany Breweries


When talking about American beer today the conversation around the major breweries is going to revolve around the Milwaukee brewers Busch, Miller, and Pabst with the addition of Colorado based Coors. Alternatively if discussing the rapidly growing Micro brewery movement examples like Boston’s Samuel Adams or New York’s Brooklyn Brewery would take center stage but a city that would not enter either discussion is the city of Albany. While not readily apparent today the Capital Region once held a number of major breweries that had a hold over both the local market and beyond. Albany’s brewing tradition goes back to the Dutch settlers and until the combined pressure of Prohibition and the rise of the Midwestern breweries closed many of Albany’s breweries. While Albany’s brewers were hit hard Prohibition their story is not unique, the 18th Amendment forced the breweries and distilleries to cease business and to survive they had to keep themselves afloat by converting to other businesses. However with the thirteen year ban on their primary business which was coupled after the 21st amendment with the rise of the Midwestern breweries eventually saw Albany largely fall out of the beer business. For my walking tour I will focus on brewing from the late nineteenth century until prohibition.