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2022 NEH Summer Institute for Teachers

“For the Common Defense: Subjects, Citizens, and America’s Military Origins, 1609-1815” explores the evolution and legacy of military institutions in America from the establishment of European colonies through the conclusion of the War of 1812. The United States emerged from a period of extensive conflict as Native peoples and European powers fought for territory, identity, and political power. Warfare shaped this period and shaped the nation that was born out of this collision of American, European, and African cultures. Military concerns were of great importance to the framers of our government and the Constitution established unique compromises between defense and liberty that continue to define the American state. Like our civil government, our military institutions are the result of history, experience, and careful study. Americans adapted and imported concepts, institutions, and tactics from across the Atlantic world, creating a unique relationship between military service and citizenship. This NEH Summer Institute traces the origins of America’s military institutions as a way of exploring how the United States was created from a complex colonial world.

Ticonderoga is the ideal place to explore this topic based on its history and collections. As a 17th– and 18th-century colonial battlefield between Native American powers, the French, and the British, Ticonderoga grounds this study in the lived experience and precedents Americans brought to their own struggle for independence. As one of the most important sites of the American Revolution, Ticonderoga is emblematic of the challenges and stakes of fighting and winning that independence, including who would fight that war, how to create and maintain a diverse military, and how a nation conducts itself at war. Fort Ticonderoga also maintains a nationally-significant collection of artifacts and archives from across the early modern Atlantic world that contextualize the events that occurred here including thousands of rare books, manuscripts, textiles, armaments, and other material spanning the 17th, 18th , and early 19th centuries.

This combination of resources, along with analysis and engagement with recent scholarship led by Institute staff and visiting scholars, will allow for an unparalleled study of American history by educators. Participants will be able to literally read, see, feel, and understand how Americans created the military institutions that buttressed the nation and perpetuated its identity. From the lasting political impact of the English Civil Wars, to the evolution of Native American warfare, to the tensions between citizenship and military service, the Institute will underscore how warfare was an integral and volatile part of early American history. Field trips to Bennington, Saratoga, Johnson Hall, and Oriskany, and the experience of our visiting scholars will deepen engagement with specific themes and narratives related to how military institutions policed, expanded, or reflected conceptions of race, class, and gender.

Understanding how early Americans thought about their military institutions is critical to understanding the origins, aspirations, and realities of our country. Born from conflict, the challenges of balancing war and peace feature prominently in our founding narratives and documents. By exploring their origins, participants will better be able to engage with their students about the complex origins of the nation and how these challenges still shape how Americans consider war, violence, and military service to this day and into the future.

The Schedule

Select the “Schedule” tab above, for full details of the Institute schedule. The link below provides a narrative description of the Institute over the two-week span.

About Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga is an independent, not-for-profit educational institution open to the public since 1909. Its mission is to “preserve, educate, and provoke an active discussion about the past and its importance to present and future generations. We foster an on-going dialogue surrounding citizens, soldiers, and nations through America’s military heritage.” Fort Ticonderoga’s great strengths in the humanities lie in its object-rich exhibits, its library and manuscript collection, its interpretive program, and the interpretive power of the unspoiled landscape.

The Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center will serve as the base for this NEH Summer Institute, providing NEH Summer Scholars with ready access to museum exhibitions, historic landscapes, and engaging public history programs. The Mars Education Center is housed within the restored Fort Ticonderoga and provides educators with wifi access in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment.

Fort Ticonderoga’s Thompson-Pell Research Center houses a library of 12,000 plus volumes and manuscript collections, as well as object storage for thousands of objects, including paintings, prints, weapons, uniforms, and archaeologically-recovered artifacts.

Activities also take place outdoors, using the fort itself, along with other historic structures and landscapes on the garrison grounds.