History professor wins prize for article in the “Journal of the Early Republic”

Sean P. Harvey, assistant professor in the department of history, was awarded the 2011 Ralph D. Gray Article Prize for “‘Must not their languages be savage and barbarous like them?’: Philology, Indian Removal, and Race Science.” The Society for Historians of the Early American Republic awards the prize for the best article to appear in the Journal of the Early Republic in the previous year.

The article discusses federal efforts to collect information on Native American languages amid the removal debates and the emergence of the notion that Native Americans possessed an unchanging, linguistically fixed plan of thought, which supposedly explained Native resistance to assimilation and justified federal demands for English-only education. He has recently finished an article on “Philology and Linguistics” for the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of U.S. Cultural and Intellectual History.

Harvey, whose courses on American history at Seton Hall range from the colonial era to the eve of the Civil War, is currently finishing a book manuscript, entitled American Languages: Indians, Nations, and Race in the Empire for Liberty. A National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship supported a year of research and writing. Besides presenting his research on intercultural communication and linguistic ideas of descent and difference at major conferences, he also had the opportunity to give a lecture on “Encountering Language in Early America” for the Language, Literatures, and Cultures Department and the Language Resource Center here at Seton Hall.

In Fall 2012, he will offer courses on Colonial America and the War of 1812. The latter course, marking the war’s bicentennial, will examine its broader place within Native spiritual revivals and resistance to white expansion, the context of the Napoleonic Wars and the disputes around commerce and citizenship they provoked, and the war’s role in accelerating industrial development in the United States.