Personal Statement:

I teach and write about 19th-century U.S. history, with a emphasis on political economy. I am now working on a project tentatively titled “Inventing the Creative Citizen: Creativity and the U.S. Civil War.”  The basic argument is that in the 1840s and 1850, northern capitalism increasingly converted creativity into a commodity the could be bought and sold.  Middle-class life, in particular, became suffused in creativity. Information, ideas, and images became cheaper and more accessible.  New and inexpensive consumer goods—such as upholstered furniture, mahogany veneers, color lithographs, musical instruments, brass clocks, fashionable carpets—made art, music, and design part of the everyday material world.  Fashion—often promoted through alluring color images in magazines and periodicals—influenced the way more people dressed. While leading to high levels of inequality, northern creativity inadvertently opened pathways of dissent, which abolitionists (especially free blacks) exploited in innovative ways to formulate more inclusive definitions of citizenship.  Southern enslavers, fearful that widespread creativity would undermine the social and political order they controlled, called for the censorship of antislavery works,  developed an overtly pro-slavery ideology, and insisted on the strict enforcement of the fugitive slave laws.  The emergence of widespread creativity in the North led to two diverging political orders, one espousing (however imperfectly realized) the liberal values of free speech and mass education, the other increasingly articulating an authoritarian ideology based on repression and violence.  Here indeed was an “irrepressible conflict” that would make existence within the same political union increasingly unlikely.

Research and Teaching Interests:

  • Nineteenth Century U.S. (especially Early Republic and Civil War)
  • Political Economy
  • Environmental History
  • History of Education and Schooling
  • Teaching History

Current Projects:

  • Inventing the Creative Citizen: Creativity and the U.S. Civil War
    See my personal statement for more details.
  • Computer Gaming and the Teaching of History
    Are computer games such as Civilization effective tools for teaching history?
  • The Economic History of the Piano.  Charting the rise of capitalism though the material culture of music.

Selected Publications:

  • Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation
    UNC Press, 2009
  • A House Dividing: Economic Development in Pennsylvania and Virginia before the Civil War
    New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • What do Players Learn from Videogames?  Historical Analysis and Sid Meier’s Civilization,” The Public Historian (February 2021), 62-81.

  • “Why Did Northerners Oppose the Extension of Slavery? Economic Development in the Limestone South,” in Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

  • “Toward a Social History of the Corporation: Shareholding in Pennsylvania, 1800-1840,”in The Economy of Early America: Historical Perspectives and New Directions edited by Cathy Matson (University of Pennsylvania, 2006).

  • Markets and Manufacturing: Industry and Agriculture in the Antebellum South and Midwest” Co-authored with Viken Tchakerian.
    in Susana Delfino and Michele Gillespie (eds.), Global Perspectives on Industrial Transformation in the American South (University of Missouri Press, 2005).
  • “Imagining ‘A Great Manufacturing Empire’: Virginia and the Possibilities of a Confederate Tariff, Co-authored with Jay Carlander.
    Civil War History 49 (December 2003): 334-352.

Courses Taught:

  • History 17B
  • History 162 (U. S. Early Republic)
  • History 162B (U. S. Antislavery Movement)