- Associate Professor
- Pettengill Hall, Room 113
B.A., Amherst College; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
When I mention to others that I study and teach history, their responses tend to the extremes. History seems to be one of those subjects that people feel equally comfortable describing either their fascination with a particular era or their frustration with memorizing dead people and dates. I am not completely sure why most people seem either to love history or loathe it, but such strong opinions convince me that history can leave powerful impressions (even if they are not always the ones teachers intend).
Sometimes the lessons can be as simple as they are profound. My hometown, Newport, Rhode Island, has long trumpeted its pre-Revolutionary past, and there are dozens of beautiful colonial homes to justify the local pride. Only late in college, though, did I realize that enterprising English colonists had not settled an empty colony. Although I knew “Narragansett” as a beautiful bay and a cheap beer, I had never thought much about the Narragansett people who shaped Newport’s early history and continued to exist as a distinct population in the state. Such a late epiphany for one fascinated by history was embarrassing, but it has set me to asking questions about the stories we tell and why. As my many conversations about history have made clear, history does not afflict everyone similarly, but at the very least, I hope that what I have to say about it encourages people to think carefully about where they are.
- American Indian History
- Origins of the New Nation, 1500-1820