Death is one of the few universals in life. Everyone who is born, will die.
How do the living make peace with death?
While different cultures make peace with death in different ways, Erik Seeman joins us to investigate how white, American Protestants made their peace with death during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.
Erik Seeman is a Professor of History at the University at Buffalo. He’s an award-winning historian who has written three books on death practices in early America, including his most recent book, Speaking with the Dead in Early America.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
Erik Seeman is a Professor of History at the University at Buffalo. He’s an award-winning historian who has written three books on death practices in early America, including his most recent book, Speaking with the Dead in Early America, which won the Lawrence W. Levine Award for best book in American Cultural History from the Organization of American Historians in 2020.
During our investigation of early American death practices, Erik reveals early American ideas about death; Information about the English Reformation and how Anglo-American Protestants came to believe in the possibility of having relationships with the dead; And, the ways in which some Anglo-American Protestants forged relationships with the dead.
What You’ll Discover
- Speaking with the dead in early America
- Early American ideas about ghosts
- Spiritualism and the spiritualism movement
- Acceptance and rejection of spiritualism by early Americans
- Early American understandings of death
- Historical sources about death and the dead in early America
- English Reformation and its attempts to change Catholic belief
- Pre-Reformation ideas about purgatory
- Impact of the Enlightenment on ideas about death and communicating with the dead
- European ideas about spiritualism and its practice
- Ghosts and ghost stories in early America
- Nineteenth-century “cult of the dead”
- Death practices among Native American and African cultures
- Material objects that spoke to the dead in early America
- What knowing more about early American death culture can reveal about early America
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Erik Seeman
- Seeman, Speaking with the Dead in Early America
- Robert Orsi
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Connecticut Historical Society
- Erik Seeman, Death in the New World
- Piers Vitebsky, Dialogues with the Dead
- Piers Vitebsky, Living Without the Dead
Support Ben Franklin's World
- Episode 125: Terri Snyder, Death, Slavery, & Suicide in British North America
- Episode 182: Douglas Winiarski, The Great Awakening in New England
- Episode 214: Christopher Grasso, Skepticism & American Faith
- Episode 231: Sara Georgini, The Religious Lives of the Adams Family
- Episode 301: From Inoculation to Vaccination, Part 1
In your opinion, what might have happened if the English Reformation had never happened? How might early Americans have viewed their living relationship with the dead differently? And would the Spiritualism Movement have still come about during the 19th century?
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