As the nation’s record keeper, we are passionate about the opportunity to support research and scholarship at the National Archives. As part of this commitment to research and inquiry, we recently awarded the first National Archives Legislative Archives Fellowship to Dr. Peter Shulman, Assistant Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University.
Peter Shulman in the research room at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Dr. Shulman’s research focuses on technology and American foreign relations in the 19th and early 20th century, expanding his 2007 dissertation into a manuscript, “Engines and Empire: America, Energy, and the World, 1840-1940.” By accessing the Congressional records housed at the National Archives, Dr. Shulman is not only able to explore the ways Congress handled questions of foreign relations and technology, but also surveys petitions and memorials as a way to better understand how Americans viewed their government.
The historical records of Congress, housed at the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives (CLA) in Washington DC, provide a wealth of information about the role of Congress since the First Congress convened in 1789. Dr. Shulman described an exciting find during a recent visit to the CLA: a large collection of petitions and memorials from the early 1850’s asking Congress to reduce ocean postage rates. He noted,
“Many Americans linked the cost of international postage to things like commercial opportunity, missionary activity, scientific and literary communication, the maintenance of connections between America’s large immigrant population and now distant families, and even a more general notion that cheap communication would bring about a greater bond between people and nations (think about arguments over smart phone data rates today, or the idea that on the internet, information ought to be free)… There are many recognizable names on these petitions as well, from the evangelist and Oberlin College President Charles Grandison Finney (along with most of Oberlin’s faculty) to the poet Charles Greenleaf Whittier, to New England leaders like Charles Eliot Norton, Josiah Quincy, and Amasa Walker.”
We are pleased to welcome Peter Shulman to the National Archives as the first recipient of this generous fellowship funded by the Foundation for the National Archives. We look forward to his continued research and to having him share the results with the community at large.