Friday, March 6, 2015

The 2015 Junto March Madness Tournament

The 2015 Junto March Madness Tournament

            This marks the third year that the junior Americanists over at The Junto have run their version of March Madness. I look forward to this annual event and am disappointed every time when my favorites get knocked off by obviously lesser quality opponents. You see, instead of sports teams playing a game where physical talent dictates the winner, the Junto selects elements of academia to battle it out for the title. This is a contest where sheer mental acuity, a passion for research, the ability to spin a phrase, and an impressive reputation count for more than physical ability; unless one considers the need to lift all those books. 

            Sixty-four of the best nominations from the Juntoists and their audience are selected for the brackets. The Juntoists seed the fields and the audience then votes. Each year a surprise upset occurs which shows the volatility of the contest. The first year, 2013, featured nominations for the best monograph in the field of history covering early American History. This is usually defined as colonial, Revolutionary, Early Republic, and Jacksonian eras. Usually anything after the Jacksonian era is not classed as eligible. The winner that year was Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom. The book was a runaway winner according to the judges as the voting for that book dominated the contest in every matchup. 

            The second year saw the field narrowed to monographs in the same eras, but published after 2000. This contest was very interesting and had a great deal of interaction. Michael Jarvis’ In the Eye of all Trade was a surprise winner. This year the field will not feature modern monographs, but instead is limited to primary sources, again in the same eras as before. This has resulted in some interesting choices and will be illuminating as historians nominated the ones they use often. The brackets have been filled and can be found here:  As the Juntoists say, “As a reminder that we give out every year: this exercise is meant to be fun. There is no way to truly determine what is the “best” document to use in the classroom. If any document doesn’t do as well as you expect, or if any subfields or subtopics seem underrepresented, it is based on readership nomination and voting. Most especially, the purpose of this year’s tournament is to use a fun venue (March Madness) to introduce teachers to a broad array of documents that they may want to consider using in the classroom.”

            I applaud their work and enjoy it greatly even if my choices did not make the brackets. Obviously, there are not that many fans of John Adams reading the blog! Still, the sources on this list are pretty impressive ones. I strongly encourage everyone to visit the Junto, participate in the contest, and do a little exploring. The Juntoists fill a very good role with this blog in the exploration of early American history. This is an area that has a small footprint on the Internet when one considers academic websites versus historically inaccurate and polemic sites that are usually not operated by a historian. Therefore, I hope to see the Junto have a nice long run. May the best source win!

1 comment:

  1. The voting is over for the first round of the tournament. Results were published today and there were some major upsets. My favorite upset was Frederick Douglass' "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" which I show in class. It is extremely powerful. Here is a link to the version I show which has James Earl Jones delivering Douglass' speech.

    This was not the biggest upset though. Over in Bracket Four: Not Rush Limbaugh's American History the #1 seed, The Papers of Sir William Johnson lost to #16, Roger Williams, "Key Into the Languages of America."

    Also watch out for Graham Crackers which was another upset in that bracket.

    For more on this Tournament and to see the rest of the results for Round One, go to