Conversations at the Washington Library-logo

Conversations at the Washington Library

History Podcasts

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske each week as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past. Support this podcast:

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske each week as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past. Support this podcast:


United States


Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske each week as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past. Support this podcast:








193. Rifling through Washington's Receipts with Dr. Julie Miller

Take a receipt out of your pocket. What does it say about you? Receipts can tell us a lot about people and the world in which they lived. And George Washington kept receipts. On today’s show, Dr. Julie Miller joins Jim Ambuske to discuss the hidden lives we can find in Washington’s receipts and similar documents. Dr. Miller is a historian and the Curator of Early American Manuscripts at the Library of Congress, where she oversees a vast array of archival material, including Washington...


Throwing a Change-Up at the Washington Library with Jim Ambuske

We wanted to let you know of some exciting changes we’ll be making to the podcast that will allow you to hear more from groundbreaking historians and scholars in new ways. Beginning today, Conversations at the Washington Library is moving to an every other week schedule. That means no new episode this week, but we’ll be back on January 21, 2021 with my chat with Julie Miller of the Library of Congress about the hidden lives in George Washington’s papers. Now, why are we making this...


192. Drinking Washington's Whiskey with Drew Hannush

For many people, one of life’s great joys is a lovely dram of whiskey. Whether you’re a fan of Kentucky Bourbon, Single-malt Scotches, Japanese or Tennessee whiskey, every glass tells a story or contains memories that connect drinkers to different places, and different times. For Jim Ambuske, a dram of Cragganmore 12 instantly takes him back to Edinburgh, where he's spent many months hunting American Revolutionaries in the archives. But like most folks, he knows less about the stories behind...


190. (Recast) The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret with Mary Thompson: Part 1

Forty years ago, Mary V. Thompson began her career at Mount Vernon as a museum attendant and history interpreter. She was quickly promoted to Curatorial Assistant, and within a few short years was named Curatorial Registrar, where she began researching numerous Washington and Mount Vernon related topics such as 18th-century foodways, animals, religion, Native Americans, genealogy, domestic life, & slavery. Today, she is the Washington Library’s indispensable Research Historian, and as many...


191. (Recast) The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret with Mary Thompson: Part 2

This is Part Two of Jim Ambuske's July 2019 chat with Washington Library Research Historian Mary V. Thompson. We’re recasting it in celebration of her 40th anniversary at Mount Vernon. If you missed Part One, please do give it a listen. Happy New Year to you all. About Our Guest: Mary V. Thompson is a long-time (38 year) member of the staff at Mount Vernon, where she is now the Research Historian. She is the author of In the Hands of a Good Providence: Religion in the Life of George...


189. Confronting an Absolutist Monarch with Dr. Karie Schultz

In this season of religious renewal, we bring you a story of religious dissent. In 1638, many of King Charles I’s Presbyterian subjects gathered at Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh to sign the National Covenant. By renewing their own covenant with the Almighty, they also pledged to resist encroachments on church government by the king, and the innovations in doctrine he sought to make for the Church of Scotland. As we’ve discovered in previous episodes, the sixteenth and seventeenth...


188. Exploring the Benjamin Franklin House of London with Dr. Márcia Balisciano

In 1757, Benjamin Franklin returned to London after an over thirty-year absence. He first ventured to the imperial capital in 1724 to continue his education as a printer; he went back in the late 1750s as a politician, after being named the London agent for the Pennsylvania Assembly. Franklin took up residence at 36 Craven Street in London, today just down the way from Charing Cross Station, and right near Trafalgar Square. For nearly two decades, with a short return to Philadelphia in...


187. Winning a Consolation Prize with Dr. Abby Mullen

Consuls are essential to American foreign relations. Although they may not be as flashy or as powerful as an Ambassador like Thomas Jefferson or John Quincy Adams, they’re often the goto people when an American gets in trouble abroad or when a trade deal needs to get done. Consuls operate in cities and towns throughout the world, helping to advance American interests and maintain good relations with their host countries, all while helping you replace your lost passport. Much has changed...


186. Exploring New Frontiers in Early American History with Alexi Garrett, Michael Blaakman, Derek O’Leary, and Krysten Blackstone

In the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin and other early Americans likened themselves to a rising people who were creating something new under the sun. It’s fair to say that historians have a similar mindset: we’re constantly striving to uncover new evidence, make new arguments, and offer new interpretations that help us better explain the past. So on today’s show, we’re going to introduce you to just a few among a rising generation of historians who are doing cutting edge work in early...


185. Seeking a City of Refuge in the Great Dismal Swamp with Marcus P. Nevius

The Great Dismal Swamp is a remarkable feature of the southern coastal plain. Spanning from Norfolk, Virginia to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the Swamp is now a National Wildlife Refuge home to Bald cypress, black bears, otters, and over 200 species of birds, among many other critters. But in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was the home to the ambitions of planters and businessmen who sought to transform the swamp into a plantation enterprise of rice, timber, and other...


184. Becoming Citizens of Convenience on the U.S.-Canadian Border with Lawrence B. A. Hatter

In 1783, the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, which confirmed American independence. As part of the treaty negotiations, American and British diplomats had to determine the new nation’s borders. They used maps like John Mitchell’s 1755 work A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America to figure out what separated the United States from what remained of British America in Canada. You can see a digital copy of the Mitchell Map here. In our own time,...


183. Trading Spaces in the Colonial Marketplace with Emma Hart

With another American presidential election behind us, talk will inevitably turn to the economy and how the president will handle it. That begs a series of questions as we turn our thoughts back to the eighteenth century: How did early Americans think about the marketplace and the economy? How did they believe that were supposed to function? How were the butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker, and their aristocratic overlords supposed to relate to one another in the marketplace? And how...


182. Recording an Oral History of the Obama Presidency with Evan D. McCormick

What is a legacy? As the artist Lin-Manual Miranda tells us, it’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. American presidents, regardless of party, spend a great deal of time during their presidencies and after they leave office thinking about their own legacies, and how people will study and remember their administrations. Whether the 2020 presidential election results in a second term for President Trump or an inaugural one for a President Biden, both men and the people in their...


181. Electioneering Rage with Kelly Fleming

In 1784, British men went to the polls. It was a pivotal contest in the aftermath of the American Revolution, following a slew of prime ministers who had tried and failed to form governments that satisfied the British electorate, and King George III. British women played a critical role in this election, even though they could not vote. They canvased for votes according to very specific social customs, and accessorized their clothing and bodies to signal support for their respective...


2020 George Washington Symposium Announcement

Elections that Shaped the American Presidency To learn more and to register, please visit: As our nation approaches its next presidential election, the 2020 George Washington Symposium focuses on several pivotal contests throughout American history that shaped and defined the election process and the American Presidency. Each day at noon during the week of October 26-30, we will feature a LIVE conversation with an eminent scholar to explore elections during...


180. Reading Letters by Early American Women with Kathryn Gehred

If you pull any decent history book off your shelf right now, odds are that it’s filled with quotes from letters, diaries, or account books that help the author tell her story and provide the evidence for her interpretation of the past. It’s almost always the case that the quotation you read in a book is just one snippet of a much longer document. Perhaps, for example, Catharine Greene’s letters to her husband Nathanael offer the reader insight into some aspect of the family business she...


179. Revitalizing Myaamia Language and Culture with George Ironstrack

In the eighteenth century, the Myaamia people inhabited what are now parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. More commonly known in English as the Miami, the Myaamia figure prominently in the early history of the United States, especially in the 1790s, when war chief Mihšihkinaahkwa (or Little Turtle) co-led an alliance of Miami and Shawnee warriors that defeated successive American armies in the Ohio valley before meeting defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. In the...


178. Digitally Interning at the Washington Library with Jamie Morris

The Washington Library's Center for Digital History often collaborates with students to advance its research and public history projects. That can take many forms. We work regularly with faculty to integrate our digital projects into their course assignments, on other occasions we deliver lectures to students about digital history or some aspect of eighteenth-century history, and we’re also fortunate to work with student interns throughout the year who assist with our projects while they...


177. Harnessing Harmony in the Early Republic with Billy Coleman

On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key began composing "The Star-Spangled Banner after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry. Of all the things he could have done after seeing that flag, why did Key write a song? And how did his new composition fit into a much longer history of music as a form of political persuasion in the Early Republic? On today’s episode, Dr. Billy Coleman joins us explore the power of music in the early United States, and how Federalists in particular used it...


176. Hunting Satan in Scotland and the Atlantic World with Michelle D. Brock

The Prince of Darkness wrought havoc on the souls of seventeenth-century Christians living throughout the Atlantic world. Whether they called him Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, or by any other name, Lucifer tempted men and women to break their covenant with God in Heaven and do his dark bidding on Earth. At a time of great religious upheaval, when the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe and across the ocean to England’s American colonies, fears of Satan’s malevolent influence and the...