At its best, teaching is a collaborative endeavor between students and the instructor. I emphasize active learning, in which students practice history through writing and the critical reading of primary and secondary sources. My courses are intended to help students become engaged global citizens and give them critical reasoning skills they can use beyond the classroom.
Peace and Violence in America
This is an interdisciplinary course on peace and violence in America. We will explore what peace and violence mean from an historical and peace studies perspective, with a particular focus on the colonial, Revolutionary, and modern eras. This is a vast topic; we cannot expect to cover everything. Rather, we will approach the course thematically. Topics of discussion will include slavery and abolition; colonization and indigenous perspectives on peace and warfare; and contemporary antiwar movements and Black Lives Matter. A key assumption of the course is that “peace” is much more than an absence of violence (“negative peace”); it is a “discourse;” that is, it is a language and an articulation of a particular ideal or an assertion how things ought to be ordered (what peace studies scholars call “positive peace”). Another basic assumption of the course is that peace can only truly be understood in relationship to violence, and vice versa.
The American Revolution
This course will examine the American Revolution from three intersecting vantage points – as an Atlantic “event;” as a struggle in which blacks, Indians, women, urban workers, and backcountry farmers demanded greater participation in the body politic; and as conflict that originated – and thus was shaped by – earlier European efforts at colonization in North America. A key argument of the course is that the American Revolution is incomprehensible without the colonial and early modern context. We will also consider how the Revolution tested notions of freedom and unfreedom and created a new and uncertain “American” identity that was increasingly grounded in racialized and gendered terms.
Although the American Revolution may look inevitable in hindsight, this course argues that the creation of the United States was historically contingent– that is, the Revolution was not inevitable, or it could have taken different turns with radically different outcomes.
American History to 1865
This course provides an overview of American history from early colonization through the American Civil War. We will explore how Native, African, and European men and women created a “new world” very different from their “pre-contact” societies. Readings and discussions will focus on the encounters between Europeans and Native Americans; growth of European settlements; circulation of trade goods; cultural and biological exchange, development of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery; gender and the family; and the rise and ultimate dissolution of the British, Dutch, French, and Spanish empires in America. By the end of the course, students will gain an appreciation for how a diverse group of peoples created the United States and an understanding of who was included and excluded from this new national identity.
Colonial Seaports in the Revolutionary Atlantic
Urban seaports were an important part of the “revolutionary” Atlantic. As centers for commerce, shipping, and culture, they knit Atlantic empires together and became the primary venue through which the Atlantic slave trade was channeled. Seaport locales were also potentially radical, as they provided opportunities for disparate groups of people to organize and assert their political and economic rights. This course will examine Atlantic seaports from the sixteenth through the early nineteenth centuries in three separate zones: West Africa (Calabar, in present-day Nigeria); mainland British America (Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Charlestown, and Newport, Rhode Island); and Western Europe (London). Themes will include slavery, labor, abolition, wealth, poverty, gender relations, and political, social, and religious radicalism. We will consider how each of these elements made urban seaports “revolutionary” in the early modern Atlantic.
Historians Craft: Early American Encounters (to 1865)
Historian’s Craft is intended to prepare history majors for advance coursework. Students will have an opportunity to write an original research paper on any topic related to the theme of “encounters” (broadly defined) in early American history, from early colonization through the mid-nineteenth century. To help get you started, we will explore historical methods, or what it means to “practice” the craft of history. Students will have an opportunity to learn about historiography, develop research and writing skills, and create an original work of historical interpretation based on a sophisticated engagement with primary and secondary sources.
Religious Toleration and Diversity in America
This course examines the origins, development, and limits of religious toleration and diversity in America. The course is organized thematically and will consider toleration both theoretically and historically. Toleration was (and is) sometimes expressed as an ideal, but more often it emerged in tension with religious, ethnic, and racial diversity. Toleration rarely meant embracing diversity; more often, it meant the opposite – an inability to drive out the “strangers” in their midst forced laity, clergy, and state officials to accept, albeit very begrudgingly, religious and racial or ethnic pluralism. Paradoxically, then, intolerance shaped much of toleration in America (far more than “secularization,” as historians have previously assumed). Religious toleration was also championed as a legal principle, as in Pennsylvania and in the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. But whether toleration was institutionalized or not, there were always underlying articulations of power and order that served the interests of the “orthodox” (however defined) over those deemed outsider or heretical.