I am a social and cultural historian of early America and the United States, working primarily in the Revolutionary period. National identity, masculinity, and violent spectacle particularly interest me. My monograph, Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors, published by Oxford University Press in April 2011, examines the material culture and ceremonies of state—including, for example, fast days, funeral processions, diplomatic protocols, and presentment swords—by which Congress promoted republicanism and revolution. Central to my study are the many ways that the American people challenged Congress and its vision of the United States.
I have recently launched two projects both of which, in different ways, expound upon themes articulated in my recent book. The first concerns masculinity, disability, class, and citizenship among pensioned veterans of the Revolutionary War. The second traces the history of tarring-and-feathering in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A sequel of sorts to my New England Quarterly article, “Tar, Feathers, and the Enemies of the United States, 1768-1776” (June 2003), this study explores the relationship between ritualized violence and national identity. As Frederick Wilhelm Gustave Ehlen dubiously professed to the Chicago Tribune after he was assaulted for allegedly making seditious remarks in April 1918, “Tar and feathers made a good American out of me . . . I’m 100 per cent American now.”
The courses I teach at the University of Arizona—especially Hist396A: American Vigilantism, Hist432: The Era of the American Revolution, and Hist457A: Manhood and Masculinity in the United States—invigorate my research. I am also now developing courses on the Bill of Rights and other topics in U.S. constitutional history.