visual evidence essays

These essays written by the Forum moderators serve as introductions to the online discussion topics. Each essay provides an overview of approaches to and scholarly sources for using visual or material culture in teaching, cites examples of compelling visual evidence, raises critical questions about historical method and pedagogy, and provides links to valuable online resources.

Picturing Colonial America
Peter C. Mancall, University of Southern California

This essay provides a brief chronological overview of the visual evidence available for teaching about the British colonies in North America. Mancall provides information on some of the first European images of America from the 1590s that were crucial for Britain’s colonizing mission, the depictions of the Pequot War, and the drawings that addressed the political crisis of the 1760s.

Visual Evidence in Jacksonian America
David Jaffee, Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture

When teaching about Jacksonian America, certainly one topic that comes to mind as critical is the market revolution. This short essay examines the visual evidence for the market revolution by examining family portraits, including folk portraiture, landscape paintings, and political cartoons. Professor Jaffee suggests ways to combine text and images in order to utilize images in teaching not as mere illustrations but rather as objects that constitute historical meaning.

Picturing The American West
Catherine J. Lavender, The College of Staten Island/City University of New York

This essay provides a brief chronological overview of the visual evidence available for teaching about the American West. Lavender discusses some of the first representations of the region by the different populations that claimed it as their own, depictions of the West as a site of nineteenth-century U.S. expansionism, and visual materials that illustrate the complicated ways the region's distinctiveness has been represented into the twentieth century.