|Andrew (left) in his interpretive role at Fort Ticoderoga|
(Photo Credit: Fort Ticonderoga)
Today, we are continuing with the second of a series of interviews with a number of young historians. By the time this series concludes in early November, we will have heard from Jack Weaver, Andrew Warren, Ben Olex, Casey Hill, Samantha Sproviero, and Davis Tierney. All of these individuals are broadly interested in the Kabinettskriege era, and have been selected as a result of recent promotion, impending graduate school applications, or work recently begun in graduate school or at a historic site. Today's young historian is Andrew Warren, a rising star in the world of public history. Andrew has worked at a number of historic sites, including Colonial Williamsburg and Fort Ticonderoga.
Alexander Burns : What drew you to study the history in this era? In 2018, much of popular memory of military history in the United States is focused on World War 1, World War 2, and the Vietnam War. What about the history of the 1688-1815 era do you find so compelling?
Andrew Warren: While I had some interest in military history, my predominant focus had always been on other subjects, namely domestic service and male fashion. The latter in particular is part of what drew me to historic interpretation and living history, wishing to dress in period clothing. Through a circuitous series of events, I ended up at my first interpreter job, a seasonal position at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Working there for four summers drastically expanded my interest and knowledge in military history. While the focus of that fort was 19th century, the sister fort on the mainland portrayed the 18th century, and over the years I became increasingly interested in that period. This culminated in me eventually getting a position at Colonial Williamsburg, long a dream of mine. As I became ever more devoted to this period, my research skills also drastically improved, and it so happened that I became close friends with a number of the military interpreters there, including Mr. Davis Tierney. Partly through him I began doing reenactments as a hobby, and I found my niche combining my primary historic passion, domestic servants, with military history by focusing my research on officers’ servants and portraying that oft-neglected aspect of the armies of this period.
AB: Is there a particular person, conflict, event, or geographical setting which draws you to this era?
AW: As it pertains to military history, I am most focused on the American War for Independence. In particular, I have a keen interest in presenting more nuanced perspectives to modern Americans, for whom the war has often been taught in a completely black and white fashion. One of my favourite ways of achieving this is portraying, or discussing, the loyalist perspective, whether in a civilian or military context. I think there is great poignancy in what was truly a civil war, and the many stories of broken families, friendships, towns, etc. In a broader sense, my interest has always been on England, for I am rather a devout Anglophile. But I’m fascinated by the effects, good and horrifically ill, of Britain’s colonization of North America, and the overlap in cultures that existed here, particularly in contrast to the differences between our nations today.
AB: How do you plan to continue your research into this era? You’ve worked a number of great historic sites, including Fort Ticonderoga. Why have you chosen your particular path?
AW: I am digging ever deeper into the role of officers’ servants, bringing my knowledge of servants in general and keen interest in the subject to spot references that others have missed. I have spoken with my bosses about possibility publishing an article on the fort’s website on the subject, or even possibly doing lectures at some point in the future. Over this winter, I will be delving far more into the French army of the Seven Years’ War than I have previously in preparation for next year’s season at the fort. At the risk of being redundant, I intend to particularly try to understand the role of servants in that context. On a more everyday basis, I hope to, in the words of Freeman Tilden, provoke guests - particularly children - into developing a passion for history, just as I was inspired many years ago. Sharing my passion, and seeing enthusiasm reflected in our guests is truly why I do this, far above anything else. Meeting so many wonderful people, from all over the world, and knowing that I am part of the reason they have traveled so far is humbling and a true honour, and I hope not only to teach them, but to learn from them, and their perspectives.
|Andrew Warren in his interpretive role at Colonial Williamsburg|
AB: Andrew, have you ever thought about publishing your research on domestic service, or writing about it in a formal way? You clearly have a lot to offer on the topic!
AW: I’ve thought about it. A number of people have suggested it over the years, especially recently. I’ve tried to find small outlets for some of my knowledge, whether it be in public history or talking with other professionals and reenactors, but the idea of making it more formalized is on my mind. I’m not sure what that will look like in the end (if anything!), and I hesitate a bit due to my lack of formal academic credentials. That said, part of me feels it to be something of a duty to share my knowledge, especially as it’s a subject that’s relatively under-examined, particularly in our period.
AB: How does your particular line of research or interpretation style share your topic, not just with fellow historians and researchers, but with the public in the United States?
AW: I will add that with my role in particular, not only doing school programs at the fort but also often traveling to schools, I have a unique ability to reach children who may not have even considered attending a museum. Again, to cite Tilden, understanding how to connect each individual or group with something that they will understand is key to fostering their interest, and helping them to comprehend sometimes abstract, broad concepts. As far as sharing my research with others in the field of history, I have been humbled by the number of people who have approached me to either portray a servant or give them information pertaining to them, and what began as my own personal passion and interest has become something of a duty, ever since realizing how little focus is put on this subject.
AB: What have you been reading, recently? Could you recommend one book on your topic of interest, or any recent work on the era?
AW: Lately, I’ve been reading more primary documents in the course of my research. In that vein, one of my favourite works is British Soldiers, American War by Don Hagist. It’s a rare glimpse into enlisted soldiers of the British Army fighting here in America, backed up with a good deal of additional research to contextualize it, a nice middle ground between primary and secondary sources. Needless to say, the chapter based around a letter written by an officer’s soldier-servant to his master’s wife is particularly fascinating to me. But given my penchant for portraying the British perspective on the war, it’s far more than that. But if I can step away from modern texts and military history for a moment, two of my favourite period accounts are the journal of John Harrower, a Scotsman who became an indentured servant in Virginia in the 1770s, and wrote many fascinating everyday details often missing in journals, as well as a book published in 1790 entitled “Travels in Various Parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa” &c., republished in the 20th century as “Memoirs of an 18th Century Footman”, by another Scotsman, John MacDonald. MacDonald was a servant for about 25 years, to 28 different masters (including some military men), and was narcissistic enough that what he published as a travelogue became a memoir of his life. It’s the only memoir of a servant from this period I know of, and the number of masters he served shows the wide spectrum of experiences for those in roles of service. Finally, on a slightly different note, I want to highlight Freeman Tilden’s Interpreting Our Heritage. I still believe that his work, which outlines the basic principles of good interpretation, holds up despite its age, and is a good starting point for anyone in public history to understand how to connect your topic with the wide variety of backgrounds, prior knowledge, and interest that each guest brings.
AB: I love your response! Is there a particular anecdote or moment in the account of John Harrower which appeals to you?
AW: Harrower is kind of a unique case, because he was indentured as a schoolmaster, so a different role than most bond labourers. But one detail that really stuck out to me - I wouldn’t say appeals exactly - is that at one point, he writes about how his mistress got angry at him for whipping their youngest son, and a few days later the master hears that same child crying and wonders why Harrower wasn’t whipping him for it. When Harrower told his master that his wife had remonstrated him for it, the master got upset at his wife. I was surprised at the idea of an indentured servant being allowed, and indeed expected, to whip his master’s children, though again it’s a bit unique to his position as schoolmaster for the family. He also shares some fascinating details of the ship’s journey to Virginia, for example a very windy night where amongst those on board “there was some sleeping, some spewing… some daming, some Blasting their leggs and thighs, some their liver, lungs, lights and eyes, And for to make the shene [scene] odder, some curs’d Father, Mother, Sister, and Brother.” And his descriptions of what he calls the “soul drivers” is harrowing (no pun intended): “they are men who make it their business to go onbd. all ships who have in either Servants or Convicts [indentured or convict servants, respectively] and buy sometimes the whole and sometimes a parcell of them as they can agree, and then they drive them through the Country like a parcell of Sheep untill they can sell them to advantage”.
AB: Thanks Andrew! It has been great talking with you, I look forward to seeing where your work takes you!
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Thanks for Reading,
 Andrew Warren has been the School & Youth Programs Interpreter at Fort Ticonderoga since October 2017, and his duties involve leading programs for school and scout groups at the fort. His career as an historic interpreter began at Fort Mackinac in 2012, working there seasonally for four years, before taking a full-time job at Colonial Williamsburg doing primarily school group tours and youth education, but a variety of other tasks besides. Andrew has never attended college, making him an extreme outlier in this field, but in addition to his extensive and varied experience in historic interpretation, he has devoted much time to his own research. He particularly enjoys the "experiential learning" that comes with living history, and has acquired various historic skills along the way, such as shoemaking, cooking, &c. Andrew's true passion, however, is in sharing his love of history with others, hopefully inspiring them to develop their own.