Is your spy-curiousness still left unsatisfied after reading this blog? Want to learn even more about the Culper spy ring, the Revolutionary War, or early American history in general? This page will be continuously updated to reflect the suggestions for further reading from the latest posts in the blog.
Free Online Historical Databases
At work, I’m often up to my eyeballs in resources related to early American history, many of which are now online (and free!) for anyone to enjoy. Some of them are more closely related to the topic of Revolutionary War spies than others. Here are some of my favorites:
A keyword-searchable database of over 149,000 transcribed documents from the personal papers of six major Founding Fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and his family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Each set of personal papers has been meticulously transcribed by a major academic institution; this completely free and incredibly user-friendly website is courtesy of the National Archives and the University of Virginia. Washington’s papers contain many references to the workings of the Culper Spy Ring; try searching for a familiar name from the show and see what you find!
The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center is a treasury of visual information about the “stuff” of everyday life in Colonial America: clothing, tools, household items, and more. Its organizers have spent years gathering period-correct images from every corner of the internet, grouping them by theme, and assembling them into hundreds of documents (“slideshows”). Best of all, it uses ONLY primary sources – either photos of real artifacts or authentic 18th-century images (like paintings and woodcuts).
If you’re not already familiar with this historical period, you might find all of this “raw data” slightly overwhelming, since these slideshows provide little to no context or interpretation about the items they contain. So be careful not to make generalizations about the objects you see here! Think of this resource as a back storage room of an online history museum – it contains thousands of period-correct items that are carefully organized and identified, but there’s no explanation provided for many of them. However, if you’re looking for examples of authentic clothing and everyday objects of the 18th century, this is an excellent place to start.
The University of Connecticut Libraries Maps and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) has uploaded dozens of beautiful, high resolution historical maps for the public to view and download for free. Their collection is skewed toward maps of Connecticut and the northeastern United States, though they have excellent maps from other regions of the United States and Europe as well. Lots of 18th century beauties here, including several maps of the Long Island Sound area that are directly relevant to the places depicted in TURN. This site is one of my favorite little-known secrets of the internet. (The header for this blog is a detail of a 1789 map in MAGIC’s online collection.)