Writing North Carolina History

Writing North Carolina History

Writing North Carolina History

Writing North Carolina History


Writing North Carolina History is the first book to assess fully the historical literature of North Carolina. It combines the talents and insights of eight noted scholars of state and southern history: William S. Powell, Alan D. Watson, Robert M. Calhoon, Harry L. Watson, Sarah M. Lemmon, and H. G. Jones. Their essays are arranged in chronological order from the founding of the first English colony in North America in 1585 to the present.

Traditionally North Carolina has not received the same scholarly attention as Virginia and South Carolina, despite the excellent resources available on Tar Heel history. This study, derived from a symposium sponsored by the North Carolina Division of Archives and History in 1977, asks questions and describes methodologies needed to redress past neglect. Besides providing a comprehensive evaluation of what has been written about North Carolina, the essayists offer perspectives on how historians have interpreted the state's history and what directions future historians need to take. Particularly important, the book provides a bibliography and suggests opportunities for future historical investigation by discussing topics, themes, and source materials that remain untapped or underused.

North Carolina's unique and colorful culture, folklore, geography, politics, and growth demand new and creative historical analysis. Collectively the authors and editors of Writing North Carolina History offer a welcome, necessary guide to the study of Tar Heel history.

Originally published in 1979.


By William S. Powell

To review what has been written about North Carolina during the 179-year period between 1585 and 1764 is a monumental undertaking for several reasons. Not only is that a very long period of time during which great and impressive events occurred, but it also anticipates that one must have at least passing acquaintance with what has been written about the period from 1585 until the present, which is a staggering 394 years. Touching even lightly on the publications of nearly four hundred years about events in North Carolina during that long-removed century and three-quarters anticipates a bibliographical and a historical knowledge of great proportions. To such I make no claim. By contrast, the next greatest period of time being reviewed by any of my colleagues at this symposium is a mere forty-four years, and he has nearly two hundred fewer years of writing time to survey. the briefest time span to be considered is one of only fifteen years (1861 to 1876) that ended just a century ago.

The enormity of the assignment became apparent when I took stock of the entries in the card catalog of the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Under the appropriate subject headings I discovered approximately seven hundred cards representing books, monographs, pamphlets, scholarly and popular articles, theses and dissertations, biographies, bibliographies, and source books on this period. I can claim familiarity with only a small portion . . .

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