Chaplin, Joyce E.
Chaplin, Joyce E.
Education: Northwestern University, B.A., 1982; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1986.
Historian, educator, and writer. University of Leeds, visiting professor in the school of history, 1991-92; Vanderbilt University, assistant professor, 1986-93; associate professor of history, 1993-2000; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, visiting professor, 1998-99, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, c. 2001—; Hart Institute lecturer, Claremont, CA, 2005-06.
An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815, University of North Carolina Press (Williamsburg, VA), 1993.
Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Historian Joyce E. Chaplin's primary interests are the history of science and environmental history. In her first book, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815, Chaplin focuses on the effect of the Enlightenment on economic behavior in Georgia and Florida prior to 1815. She delves into what this southern population thought of modern ideas, science, and issues surrounding slavery, such as its role in society. She also looks at efforts in agriculture and industrialization. Thomas Weiss, writing in the Business History Review, commented that the author "has produced an interesting and useful history of the region, and she has put forth some new data for others to consider. More important, the book makes clear that further research on the relationship between ideas and behavior in the colonial Lower South, as well as elsewhere, would be fruitful." Edna Greene Medford wrote in the Journal of American History that the author "challenges basic assumptions about economic development in the period before the south grew resistant to change and became intolerant of criticism." Medford added: "Her meticulous research, commanding grasp of Enlightenment thought, and insight into the behavior of the lower South's free and enslaved populations make this a persuasive work."
Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676 focuses on how modern science, technology, and natural philosophy impacted the interaction between European and non-Western people and cultures, primarily native Indians. "Chaplin convincingly demonstrates English openness to new ideas and technologies in the first phase of colonization as they strove to understand the relationship between unfamiliar landscapes and the bodies that inhabited them," wrote Lisa M. Logan in Early American Literature. Logan went on to write: "Chaplin's investigation roots ideas about race in early modern scientific thinking about corporeal difference, thus revising the notion that ‘race’ is a modern invention." Noting that the author's "study examines how English explorers and settlers in North America conceptualized their relationships to nature, technology, and the aboriginal peoples," Isis contributor Steven Turner further observed that the author showed that early colonial writings "evinced much respect for Indian technology, as well as admiration of Indian bodies for their strength and adaptation to what the English found a new and threatening world."
Chaplin explores a U.S. founding father's commitment to science in The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius. In her book, Chaplin presents her case that Franklin was first and foremost known as an Enlightenment scientist, a recognition that faded with the Revolutionary War. Chaplin delves into Franklin's youthful scientific efforts, his business enterprises that made him enough money to become a gentleman scientist, and his later scientific efforts in areas such as electricity. Finally, Chaplin explores the political demands placed on Franklin that led to his setting aside many of his scientific pursuits. A California Bookwatch contributor commented that The First Scientific American presents "a unique discussion" focusing on Franklin and science of the times. Sara Rutter, writing in the Library Journal, called the book "a well-written, extensively footnoted, and finely illustrated biography."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 1995, Sally Mc-Murry, review of An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815, pp. 578-579.
Booklist, April 15, 2006, Gilbert Taylor review of The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius, p. 13.
Business History Review, spring, 1994, Thomas Weiss, review of An Anxious Pursuit, p. 148.
California Bookwatch, August, 2006, review of The First Scientific American.
Canadian Journal of History, December, 2002, Dianne Newell, review of Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676, p. 612.
Early American Literature, fall, 2003, Lisa M. Logan, review of Subject Matter, p. 521.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 2001, Michael Leroy Oberg, review of Subject Matter, p. 13.
Isis, June, 2004, Steven Turner, review of Subject Matter, p. 298.
Journal of American History, December, 1994, Edna Greene Medford, review of An Anxious Pursuit, p. 1287.
Journal of Southern History, August, 2003, James Sidbury, review of Subject Matter, p. 664; November, 1994, Alan Gallay, review of An Anxious Pursuit, pp. 781-782.
Library Journal, April 15, 2006, Sara Rutter, review of The First Scientific American, p. 102.
Medical History, April 1; 2005, Charles L. Cohen, review of Subject Matter, pp. 220-221.
Publishers Weekly, February 13, 2006, review of The First Scientific American, p. 75.
Science News, May 6, 2006, review of The First Scientific American, p. 287.
Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Web site,http://www.fas.harvard.edu/ (November 18, 2006), faculty profile of author.
Harvard University Office of News & Public Affairs Web site,http://www.hno.harvard.edu/ (November 18, 2006), Ken Gewertz, "Body Language Views of the Body Colored Perceptions of Early Colonists," faculty profile of author.