Chestertown—The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College is hosting distinguished historian Lorena S. Walsh as this summer’s Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellow. A 27-year veteran of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Walsh is an expert on the culture and economy of colonial-era Maryland and Virginia. While in Chestertown for two months, she will have an office in the Starr Center’s circa-1746 Custom House on the Chester River, as well as exclusive use of its Patrick Henry Fellows’ Residence, a restored 1730s house in Chestertown’s historic district.
Walsh is focusing her fellowship work on a new book about plantation management. Tentatively titled “To Labour for Profit”: Plantation Management in the Revolutionary and Early National Chesapeake, 1764-1820, the new book will follow up on her groundbreaking 2010 publication, Motives of Honor, Pleasure and Profit: Plantation Management in the Chesapeake, 1607-1763 (University of North Carolina Press).
“Dr. Walsh's sweeping, two-volume history of Chesapeake plantations—the crowning achievement of a distinguished career—promises to stand as a scholarly landmark for many years to come,” says Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “We're honored to support her work and host her here in the very appropriate setting of Chestertown.”
The Starr Center administers the Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellowship in partnership with the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious institutions for the study of early America. Founded with a $1 million endowment from The Hodson Trust, the Fellowship supports work on significant projects related to the literature, history, culture, or art of the Americas before 1830. Now in its second year, it welcomes submissions not only from traditional historians, but also from filmmakers, novelists, and creative and performing artists.
As a Fellow, Walsh spent two months conducting research at the John Carter Brown Library, which is home to one of the world’s richest collections of books, maps and documents related to North and South America and the Caribbean between 1492 and 1830. “I had the opportunity to read both primary and secondary literature on changing conceptions of slavery before and during the Revolution, and on the debt crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s,” she says of her time on the Brown campus. “This summer, I plan to incorporate these materials into my analysis of how large plantations were managed in Virginia and Maryland between 1764 and 1789.”
Walsh’s first book, Robert Cole’s World: Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland (UNC, 1991), garnered wide praise for humanizing the hundreds of little-known servants and small farmers whose labor built 17th-century Maryland. The book, which Walsh co-authored with Lois Green Carr and Russell R. Menard, won the 1993 Maryland Historical Society Book Prize and the 1994 Economic History Association Jones Prize.
The American Historical Review lauded her Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit as “a tour de force of persuasive and fluent analysis,” and historian Stanley Engerman proclaimed it “a masterful work that will influence the study of colonial America for a very long time.” Walsh is also the author of From Calabar to Carter’s Grove: The History of a Virginia Tidewater African-American Slave Community (University Press of Virginia, 1997).
Prior to her work at Colonial Williamsburg, she served as a Research Associate for the St. Mary’s City Commission, and Project Director of a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored study of Anne Arundel County in the colonial era. She is a Council Member for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and a Visiting Lecturer at the College of William & Mary.
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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center and its fellowships, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.