The 12th Virginia Forum takes place at Norfolk State University on March 2-4 with this columnist on the program.
Begun in 2006 under the leadership of Shenandoah University professor Warren Hofstra and Library of Virginia historian Brent Tarter, the annual Virginia Forum brings together history professors and teachers, archivists, museum curators, historic site interpreters, librarians and reenactors.
At the Forum, anyone who studies or interprets Virginia history can share his or her knowledge, research, and experiences. Typically between 100-150 people attend the annual Forum.
This year’s announced Forum theme is “Who Are We?: Identity and Memory in Virginia.” The organizers say: “The overarching theme reflects the notion that Virginia society has always been part of a hybrid and global culture predicated on intimate and overlapping encounters among Africans, Native Americans, Western Europeans, and other cultures from around the globe.”
The organizers hope that the 2017 Forum will reflect “… the broader context of questions of race, ethnicity and identity which began in 1619 at Point Comfort in the Virginia colony and continue today through the LGBT rights and Black Lives Matter movements.”
According to its draft schedule, the 2017 Forum will offer about 65 presentations divided among about 20 three-presenter sessions and some panels. Examples of session titles are: “Health and Medicine in Virginia,” “Desegregating Virginia Colleges” (with Peter Wallenstein of Virginia Tech as one of the three presenters), “Early Virginia Cities,” “Eighteenth Century Virginia,” and the session in which this columnist is speaking titled “Law and Crime.”
The title of this columnist’s presentation is “The 1808 Lewis-McHenry Duel: A Case Study in Local History,” a topic that he has covered in several columns published here in this newspaper during 2016. His co-presenters in the “Law and Crime” session will be two very distinguished writers of Virginia history: Dr. Brent Tarter, speaking with the title “What, if Anything, Was the Constitution of Colonial Virginia? And Why Should Anybody Care?” and Dr. Warren Billings speaking with the title “Just Laws for the Happy Guiding and Governing of the People there Inhabiting: Statute Law in Colonial Virginia.”
The moderator of the “Law and Crime” session will be Ms. Linda Tesar, who is Adjunct Professor and Head of Technical Services at the William and Mary Law School and an Adjunct Professor there.
This columnist gave a very favorable review to Brent Tarter’s “The Grandees of Government” (University of Virginia Press, 2013) in an op-ed article published in the Roanoke Times in October 2015. He wrote that the book’s documentation of the Virginia Way across four centuries is well summed up by its subtitle: “The Origins and Persistence of Undemocratic Politics in Virginia.”
Tarter’s book consists of a series of 15 essays arranged chronologically from the Jamestown settlement to the late 20th century. The essays describe how Virginia was controlled at various times by tobacco planter oligarchs, land barons, railroad men, the Harry Byrd machine, and Massive Resisters, among other elites. “The Grandees” drew excellent reviews in history journals.
The historian Peter Onuf of the University of Virginia concluded his review of “The Grandees” by saying: “Tarter’s book gives us some reason to hope that another Virginia with a different history is now emerging, that the ‘continuity’ (of an unfair Virginia) he has so effectively delineated will give way at last to ‘change.’”
Tarter’s most recent book is “A Saga of the New South: Race, Law, and Public Debt in Virginia” (University of Virginia Press, 2016).
Warren Billings is the author of sixteen books, with a concentration on law, seventeenth century Virginia history and Sir William Berkeley (twice Virginia governor during the seventeenth century). Of special interest to this columnist are Billings’ books quoting Virginia documentary history: “The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1689” (University of North Carolina Press, 1975) and its 2007 reprint “A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1700.”
These books of documentary Virginia history give an excellent account of the way in which the system of local county government was transferred with needed modifications from England to Virginia, and thence to much of the Unites States.
Incidentally, Billings was the keynote speaker at the Founders Day Dinner of the Botetourt Historical Society in Fincastle in October 2007.
In Norfolk, this columnist will do his best to speak up for Christiansburg and Montgomery County as an autodidactic amateur in the company of a couple of pretty big-name professional historians — who are both very friendly and approachable in person.
Jim Glanville is a retired chemist living in Blacksburg. He has been publishing and lecturing for more than a decade about the history of Southwest Virginia.