President's Report Masthead
December 31, 2015

Washington’s early years gain scrutiny

Binghamton graduate student Kenneth Lane will spend the next year at Mount Vernon and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington to fill in details of Washington’s murky younger years. 

He learned as a young British subject the value of patronage, said Lane, a doctoral candidate in history. He learned by failing over and over again.

Where Mount Vernon enters the picture is its archive — including the surveying records of Washington’s Ohio Valley trek. Lane is looking to understand not only how Washington saw the valley, but how he planned to divvy it up among his patrons — and himself.

They’ve been looked at, but nobody placed any importance in it, said Robert Parkinson, an assistant professor of history and Lane’s adviser. And historians should, because of the Ohio River Valley’s potential to feed an empire: This region was becoming known as the next paradise in North America,Parkinson said, one both the British and French wanted to control.

It’s also an important part of Washington’s story, said Doug Bradburn, a former Binghamton professor and director of the Smith library.

The great study of his early rise needs to be retold in the context of the latest research on the character of the British Empire in America, wrote Bradburn, once Lane’s adviser. Additionally, I think more could be done to understand Washington’s life as a politician in both a patron/client political world, as well as his involvement in shaping a modern representative democracy.Lane

is one of 20 scholars chosen this year for a fellowship at the library.

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