221 episodes

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past.

Conversations at the Washington Library George Washington's Mount Vernon

    • History
    • 4.7 • 76 Ratings

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past.

    218. Finding Washington at the Plow with Dr. Bruce Ragsdale

    218. Finding Washington at the Plow with Dr. Bruce Ragsdale

    In the 1760s, tobacco was one of Virginia’s chief exports. But George Washington turned away from the noxious plant and began dreaming of wheat and a more profitable future. Washington became enamored with new ideas powering the agricultural revolution in Great Britain and set out to implement this new form of husbandry back home at Mount Vernon.
    His quest to become a gentleman farmer reshaped Mount Vernon’s landscape and altered the lives of the plantation’s enslaved community, and his own ideas about slavery, forever.
    On today’s show, Dr. Bruce Ragsdale joins Jim Ambuske to chat about his new book, Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery, published by Harvard University Press in 2021.
    Ragsdale is the retired Director of the Federal Judicial History Office and he’s one of the leading experts on agriculture in the early republic. And as you’ll hear, Washington the revolutionary farmer had more in common with Farmer George in England, that is King George III, than you might think.
    Please take a moment to rate and review the show on your favorite podcast app. It helps other people find us and the new insights our guests bring to the table each episode.

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    • 45 min
    217. Exploring Star Territory with Dr. Gordon Fraser

    217. Exploring Star Territory with Dr. Gordon Fraser

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, North Americans looked up at the sky in wonder at the cosmos and what lay beyond earth’s atmosphere.
    But astronomers like Benjamin Banneker, Georgia surveyors, Cherokee storytellers, and government officials also saw in the stars ways to master space on earth by controlling the heavens above. And print technology became a key way for Americans of all stripes to find ways to understand their own place in the universe and their relationship to each other.
    On today’s show, Dr. Gordon Fraser joins Jim Ambuske to discuss his new book, Star Territory: Printing the Universe in Nineteenth-Century America, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2021.
    Fraser is a Lecturer and Presidential Fellow in American Studies, University of Manchester in England, and Fraser and Ambuske were joined today by Dr. Alexandra Montgomery as guest co-host, who is heading up the Washington Library’s ARGO initiative.
    And yes, they talk about aliens.

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    • 51 min
    216. Digitally Deconstructing the Constitution with Dr. Nicholas Cole

    216. Digitally Deconstructing the Constitution with Dr. Nicholas Cole

    When delegates assembled in Philadelphia in the Summer of 1787 to write a new Constitution, they spent months in secret writing a document they hoped would form a more perfect Union.
    When we talk about the convention, we often talk of the Virginia Plan, the Connecticut Compromise, the 3/5ths clause, and other major decisions that shaped the final document.
    What’s harder to see are the long days the delegates spent haggling over numerous proposed amendments, precise words, phrases, and ideas that contorted the constitution into its final form.
    It’s a process that helped create many of the political institutions that we too often take for granted these days.
    On today’s show, Dr. Nicholas Cole joins Jim Ambuske to chat about using the Quill Project to demystify the past moments that shaped our political and legal futures.
    Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College at the University of Oxford, where he is the director of the Quill Project, a digital initiative that investigates the historical origins of some of the world’s foundational legal texts.
    And as you’ll learn, little moments in the constitutional process can mean a lot.
    With this episode, we close the books on 2021. Thanks for joining us this past year, we appreciate the opportunity to be in your ears, and we look forward to seeing you in 2022. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

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    • 47 min
    215. Reading Thomas Paine's Rights of Man with Dr. Frances Chiu

    215. Reading Thomas Paine's Rights of Man with Dr. Frances Chiu

    For most Americans, Thomas Paine is the radical Englishman, and former tax collector, who published Common Sense in early 1776. His claim that hereditary monarchy was an absurdity and that the “cause of America was in great measure the cause of all mankind” galvanized American rebels into thinking more seriously about independence than they had only a few months before. 

    Paine would go on to publish The American Crisis and other writings during the America Revolution before trying to find his place in the new United States after the war. 

    But in the early 1790s, Paine took up his pen once again, this time to defend the French Revolution, from its British critics, including his frenemy, Edmund Burke. The result was a two-part work entitled Rights of Man, a treatise that imagined a world that in some ways looks very similar to our own. 

    On today’s show, Dr. Frances Chiu joins Jim Ambuske to chat about her new guide book to Paine’s Rights of Man, published by Routledge in 2020. Chiu, who teaches at the New School, is a historian of 18thand 19th century Gothic horror, as well as British reform and radicalism. Her guide book is a handy tool for understanding Paine’s ideas and their origins, with some far older than you might imagine.


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    • 27 min
    Previewing Episode 1 of Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon

    Previewing Episode 1 of Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon

    On this week's show, we bring you Episode 1 of Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon. Entitled "Passages," it features the life of Sambo Anderson, who was just a boy when he was captured in West Africa, survived the Middle Passage, and purchased by an ambitious George Washington sometime in the late 1760s. During his years of enslavement at Mount Vernon, Anderson became a carpenter, a husband, and a father. In this episode, we tell the story of Anderson’s life to explore the rise of slavery in the Chesapeake Bay region, George and Martha Washington’s connections to the transatlantic slave trade, and the laws that marked the boundaries between slavery and freedom in Virginia.

    Featuring:


    Dr. Brenda Stevenson, Hillary Rodham Clinton Endowed Chair in Women’s History, St. John’s College, Oxford University
    Dr. Lorena Walsh, Research Historian Emerita, Colonial Williamsburg
    Dr. John C. Coombs, Professor of History, Hampden-Sydney College
    Dr. Lynn Price Robbins, historian of George and Martha Washington and Early America
    Jessie MacLeod, Associate Curator, George Washington’s Mount Vernon

    Full transcripts, show notes, and bibliographies available at www.georgewashingtonpodcast.com.


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    • 42 min
    Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon (Coming November 15, 2021)

    Intertwined: The Enslaved Community at George Washington's Mount Vernon (Coming November 15, 2021)

    Intertwined tells the story of the more than 577 people enslaved by George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. Told through the biographies of Sambo Anderson, Davy Gray, William Lee, Kate, Ona Judge, Nancy Carter Quander, Edmund Parker, Caroline Branham, and the Washingtons, this eight-part podcast series explores the lives and labors of Mount Vernon’s enslaved community, and how we interpret slavery at the historic site today.

    Intertwined is narrated by Brenda Parker and is a production of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and CD Squared.

    Find Intertwined on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

    Learn more, subscribe to the show, and find full transcripts, show notes, and bibliographies available at www.georgewashingtonpodcast.com.


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    • 1 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
76 Ratings

76 Ratings

Spinning Yarns ,

A lovely program

This is a wonderful podcast. I appreciate hearing about early America and a variety of histories that shaped George Washington’s world from outstanding guests.

Jpa1622 ,

Great show!

Great show!

cjr816 ,

Enjoy This Podcast!

I enjoy hearing about was is happening at the library and Mt. Vernon. I was part of a Gilder Lehman Course with Gordon Wood in 2014 and since then have tried to keep track of all that is happening there. Thanks for the scholarly reflections of this important time period in American History.

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