I am a historian of Antebellum America (1800-1860) with particular interests in domestic politics, gender, and the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world in the decades before the Civil War. I’ve published five books, including a narrative history of the U.S.-Mexican War (A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico), an investigation into the role that the ideology of manifest destiny played in both foreign affairs and American society at home (Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire), and a study the relationship between gender, culture, and urbanization (Cause for Alarm: The Volunteer Fire Department in the Nineteenth-Century City). In 2021 I served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
“Cuba and the Failure of Manifest Destiny,” The Journal of the Early Republic, Spring 2022.
“Pulling Back the Curtain on the Lincolns’ Marriage,” Review of An American Marriage, by Michael Burlingame. New York Times, June 1, 2021 (“Editor’s choice” article).
Lady First: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk (Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage Books, 2019).
A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico, (Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage
Books, fall 2012). Main selection: History Book of the Month Club. Selection: Book of the Month Club, Military Book of the Month Club.
Manifest Destiny and American Territorial Expansion: A Brief History with Documents. 2nd ed. The Bedford
Series in History and Culture (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2017)
Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Cause for Alarm: The Volunteer Fire Department in the Nineteenth-Century City (Princeton University Press, 1998)
President, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 2020-2021.
Elected Member of the American Antiquarian Society, 2021
Tennessee History Book Award, 2020 (Lady First)
OAH China Residency Program, Fujian Normal University, 2019.
Elected Member, Society of American Historians, 2015.
National Endowment for the Humanities, Public Scholar Grant, 2016-17
Myra Bernath Biennial Book Prize, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, 2014 (Wicked War)
Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, 2014
Class of 1933 Distinction in the Humanities Award, Penn State University, 2014
Best Book Award, 2013, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (Wicked War)
Robert Utley Award, 2013, Western History Association (Wicked War)
National Endowment for the Humanities, University Faculty Fellowship, 2013-14
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 2009-10
George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1999