How did Americans govern themselves during the Constitution’s first tumultuous decades?

Sounds like a simple question, doesn’t it?  After all, American schoolchildren learn about the Constitution and the federal system it created.  Historians have long concerned themselves with politics of this era.  And bookstores and Websites alike are filled with biographies of the Founding Fathers.

Yet for all those books and all those classes, a basic question remains unanswered: What did the federal government do and how did it do it?  And the answers to that question are provocative.  Through its examination of the nation’s government at the moment of its creation, Creating a Federal Government seeks to transform our understanding of government.  In the process, it also models how digital technology and narrative storytelling come together to make sense of the American past.

Combining a careful analysis of the Founders’ correspondence with a massive digital archive of the federal workforce, Creating a Federal Government engages multiple audiences.  This project challenges the ways scholars and journalists, politicians and pundits, teachers and the general public have imagined American government at its moment of creation.  Equally important, this project proposes new ways of connecting faculty and students.  The digital archive that is at the core of this project is modeling innovative ways of using computing in the humanities. And that archive is the result of a collaborative partnership between faculty, technologists, graduate students, and undergraduates.

Creating a Federal Government is currently under development. This Website provides an introduction to this project and an overview of its goals.

If you have any questions, please contact Peter Kastor, the project author and principal investigator.