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Historian Joe Hall favors Goetz ’00 and ‘The Baptism of Early Viriginia’ in Elite 8 matchup

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A magna cum laude graduate of Bates, Rebecca Goetz ’00 majored in history and German, earning honors in history.

Your NCAA brackets are long since smashed, so why not join a March Madness competition where you have a real rooting interest?

Rebecca Goetz ’00 is the author of an important book about slavery’s origins in America, The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race (Johns Hopkins University Press (2012).

After three wins, her book has advanced to the Elite 8 of a March Madness competition sponsored by Junto, the preeminent blog for scholars of early America.

Goetz, an associate professor of history at New York University, got her start as a scholar at Bates, where her history honors thesis analyzed the diary of soldier who joined Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec in 1775.

You can vote until midnight tonight, and so that we can cheer for Goetz from both the heart and the head, we asked Associate Professor of History Joe Hall for the academic skinny on Goetz’s book and her chances today.

He says:

The Baptism of Early Virginia addresses the ways that religion influenced how English colonists gradually constructed a system of racially based slavery, and it has had an impressive run against a wide range of very important books in early American history.

Her run might not be as dramatic as Dayton’s to the Sweet 16 over Ohio State and Syracuse, but her success does say very interesting things about how she is getting historians to think better (if not improving their perimeter shooting).

In the first round, she was paired against another historian of the ways that religion shaped early America, John Fea. His history of the religious roots of the young republic of the U.S. might appeal more to a popular audience, but I think Rebecca benefited from Colonial historians’ continuing fascination with the origins of slavery in early America.

Associate Professor of History Joseph Hall (Mike Bradley/Bates College)

Associate Professor of History Joseph Hall (Mike Bradley/Bates College)

Think of that win as solid defense winning out over crowd-appealing dunking.

That fascination, combined with a pithy and insightful argument about the ways that baptism (or lack thereof) defined racial difference, seems to have propelled her to victory against two books about the American Revolution, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World and Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire.

A tribute to the importance of her book.

Is this the Cinderella story of the tournament? We’ll see.

Rebecca’s book is a big deal, so I would not number her among the surprise winners, but she’s paired up today against an excellent book about American Indians in early America, Daniel Richter’s Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize back in 2002.

Richter’s book knocked out the No. 1 seed in its bracket; that might give him the momentum he needs to make it to the Final Four in the tournament.

Whatever the results today, Rebecca’s success in this quirky tournament is a real tribute to the importance of her book.



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