I am a historian of antebellum America (1800-1860) with a particular interest in the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world in the decades before the Civil War. My research has been chronologically focused (why stray from the most fascinating period in American history?) but topically broad. I have published four books: 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). I have also published a general history of the territorial expansion of the United States (Manifest Destiny and American Territorial Expansion: A Brief History with Documents). I tend to focus on the transformation of gender roles in most of my work, from volunteer firefighting in 1820s Baltimore to reactions to William Walker’s Nicaraguan filibustering adventures in the mid-1850s, but am also intrigued by partisan politics and the growth of America’s empire. I am currently researching and writing a history of nineteenth-century attitudes towards imperialism, focused on ordinary Americans. I love to lead class discussions on primary sources, and try to integrate visual images into all my lectures. In 1999 Penn State awarded me the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2009 I was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.
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. The Bedford
Series in History and Culture (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2012)
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)
Robert M. Utley Award, Western History Association (2013)
Best Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (2013)
L.A. Times Book Prize, finalist (2013)
National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship (2012)
Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2009)
American Philosophical Society Sabbatical Fellowship (2009-2010)
Top Young Historian Profile, History News Network (2005)
Gilder Lehrman Fellowship, New York Historical Society (2005)