Looking Ahead: June 2009

Well, I’ve finished with the Livingston papers, teaching duties are done and I have three mostly open weeks in Princeton remaining before we leave town. Moving-related chores will take up some of my time, as will health-related activities, but I think I should be able to accomplish at least one substantial “project” during this time. With that in mind, the major projects I have in mind for the near future are as follows:

  1. Transcribing all my handwritten Livingston notes into my database. This pertains to probably about 70% of the collection, since about two-thirds through my research I started entering notes and transcribing documents directly into Filemaker rather than by hand in pencil. The transcribing will not be a mindless task by any stretch, since as I transcribe I will be re-reading stuff I looked at early on, and re-considering it in light of things I have learned and read since then. I will also be arranging things chronologically that I could only read alphabetically (which is one of the major points of the database). In addition, I will be tweaking the actual design of may database as I go — adding new keywords, categories, and layouts as the data seems to call for.
  2. Also with regard to Livingston, I want to write down some of my major impressions and (tentative) conclusions while this research is still fresh in my mind. This will take the form of informal mini-essays, perhaps but not necessarily with a level of polish that would allow sections, at least, to be cut and pasted into the eventual dissertation. This is an appropriate time, for example, to write those biographical passages about EL, a summary description of the Batture controversy, and accounts of briefer episodes like: EL’s ouster from NYC in 1803 and exile to Louisiana; his role in the Burr/Wilkinson controversy; his career as a sugar planter and slaveowner/employer; and his part in the New Orleans campaign of 1814-15.
  3. A totally different type of project: compiling and arranging the quantitative data from the various censuses I have access to (the 1805 metro census of New Orleans, and the 1810 and 1820 federal censuses are the key ones). This requires transcribing some data that I can only find in manuscript form; it also requires turning some text files that are online into usable, manipulable Excel files. Finally, once I have the data massaged to my satisfaction, it involved actually studying the data. It may also become desirable to map the data in some way, either now or down the road. The questions I hope this information will speak to, of course, all have to do with the social and demographic transformations of Louisiana and New Orleans from 1800 to 1820; and this project should conclude with a good chunk of writing, accompanied by tables, detailing my findings. Whether that writing is a complete, self-contained article or chapter, or something less formal like a series of blog posts, is less crucial to me right now than simply getting the analysis part done.
  4. A fourth project is one I outlined to Sean in our last meeting, a couple months ago, and ended up putting on the back burner in favor of finishing my Livingston work. It will yield either a self-contained article or a usable dissertation chapter. The topic is American impressions of opportunities in Louisiana, around the time of the Louisiana Purchase. The opportunities are both personal (making one’s fortune, finding steady employment) and national (becoming a great continental power, ridding the continent of European colonizers) — and the source base will be printed sources, for the most part, newpapers and pamphlets most of which I can access online and read anywhere. I will also use some Livingston and Gallatin papers stuff (letters of intro, for example).
  5. Finally, secondary reading continues. I want to finish Shannon Lee Dawdy’s Building the Devil’s Empire and Gilbert Din’s The New Orleans Cabildo (both started and half-finished a while back). I want to skim, at least, Clare Brandt’s An American Aristocracy: the Livingstons, Emily Clark’s Masterless Mistresses, and Follett’s The Sugar Masters. I want to read in their entirety the two major edited volumes on the Haitian Revolution, A Turbulent Time and The Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. And finally I want to re-read two books extremely germane to my subject, both of which I read a year or so ago, when I understood my subject much less than I do now: Rothman’s Slave Country and Kastor’s The Nation’s Crucible. All of the above should be completed with at least a mini-review if not a full, thoughtful essay.

Since the last three projects will be easy to do anywhere regardless of my location, and the first two may require me to be near Princeton in order to look up things in the Livingston collection, it seems clear that my goal for the next three weeks should be to transcribe notes, work on my Livingston database, and get a good chunk of pages written — either polished or “gritty” as it turns out to be — directly relating to my Livingston researches. In other words, try to get hefty chunks of #1 and #2 above under my belt before I leave for NOLA permanently.

It would be nice if I got a little bit more research done in the Gallatin microfilms, as well; I must find out whether Tulane, U. of N.O., or anyone else down there has those; and I must send an email to someone in the TJ Papers asking for advice on what to read for the “undocumented” period (1802-1809) that is at the heart of my own TJ interests.


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