Front Page


My name is W. Caleb McDaniel, and I’m an associate professor of history at Rice University. I created this website as an experiment in open notebook history. I wanted to see what it might look like to conduct my research for a scholarly work of history totally in the open.

Most of the notes on this wiki were written while I conducted research for my second book, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America (Oxford University Press, 2019). The book was supported by a 2016-2017 Public Scholar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and it tells the story of Henrietta Wood, a formerly enslaved woman who managed to sue Zebulon Ward for reparations in a federal court in the 1870s. There is also a companion Omeka site where I have posted some of my primary sources.1


Because this notebook is no longer regularly updated, errors or inconsistencies between pages may appear. I work to correct these errors as I find them, but readers should approach the notes as just that—sprawling, unfinished, and fragmentary notes—rather than finished works of scholarship. Researchers interested in my final conclusions about topics covered here should consult and cite my published articles and book.

PAQs (Potentially Asked Questions)

Why are you doing this?

Good question! Long answer. For a slightly shorter answer, you can watch my 6-minute talk on Open Notebook Research for the Rice Scientia series:

Can anyone see this site?

This site is on the open web, meaning anyone can read any part of it and link to any of the pages. There are no “private” pages on the site.

What’s the best way to receive updates?

I frequently post updates about my work to my Twitter feed. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds for the site as a whole or for individual pages. Just see the “Atom feed” links in the sidebar.

Can anyone edit this site?

No, only people with accounts that I have authorized can post here. The vast majority of the edits are made by me, but a small number may be made by graduate or undergraduate research assistants. Check the “history” tab on any given page to see who changed what; any changes made by “Caleb McDaniel” or “wcaleb” are attributable to me.

Can I use stuff I find here?

Yes, but please note disclaimer and let people know where you got it and who wrote it. The work on this site, unless otherwise notice, is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

I’m working on similar stuff. Can we talk?

Absolutely! If anything you see here catches your eye and you’d like to collaborate on some or all of this project, please . You can also comment on any page by clicking on the discuss tab.

About Gitit

This website is powered by Gitit, a wiki program written by John MacFarlane and a community of user-developers. Help with navigation is always available through the “Help” link in the sidebar. More details on installing and configurating gitit are available in the Gitit User’s Guide.

One of the nice things about Gitit is the fact that every page is nothing more than a plain text file marked up with Pandoc’s Markdown. (Click on raw page source in the sidebar for any page to see what it looks like under the hood.) That means I can edit the pages within the browser interface or in my text editor of choice. All of the pages use git for version control and reside both on my local machine and on the server.

For more information about how my note and citation system works under the hood, see my screencast on plain text note and citation management. I also keep a page of Gitit Hacks on this wiki to share my customizations to the software, such as the “exact phrase” search box you see in the sidebar.

  1. For a fuller account of my interests, see the Project Description page. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. See Rice’s news release for more details about the Public Scholar grant.