Abraham Lincoln’s Youth

Published on 27 November 2017 under Books
Abraham Lincoln’s Youth

I’m pleased to announce that William “Bill” Bartelt and I signed a contract with Indiana University Press to publish a new book tentatively titled Abraham Lincoln’s Youth: Works from Indiana’s Lincoln Inquiry. I’m especially excited to work with Bill, widely considered the world’s greatest living scholar on Lincoln’s youth in Indiana.

This new book unearths vital primary source material and culls together the Lincoln Inquiry’s most historically rigorous and significant contributions. In each of the pieces the editors provide illuminating and insightful annotations offering context for the Inquiry’s findings. Click here for more information.

Frontier Thesis

Published on 17 November 2017 under History

Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis,” which burst onto the scene with a famous essay in 1893 titled “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” continues to impact the American view of history in fundamental ways. In it Turner argues the frontier shaped American democracy, independence, ingenuity, and optimism. In the process, the frontier also shaped the American story and drove American history. Turner eventually landed a place on the staff at Harvard and shaped generations of historians and public intellectuals, spawning both devotees and critics.

New research from Samuel Bazzi, Martin Fiszbein, and Mesay Gebresilasse explores the pervasive and persistent influence of the frontier on American life. Here’s the abstract on their new NBER working paper:

In a classic 1893 essay, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the American frontier promoted individualism. We revisit the Frontier Thesis and examine its relevance at the subnational level. Using Census data and GIS techniques, we track the frontier throughout the 1790-1890 period and construct a novel, county-level measure of historical frontier experience. We document skewed sex ratios and other distinctive demographics of frontier locations, as well as their greater individualism (proxied by infrequent children names). Many decades after the closing of the frontier, counties with longer historical frontier experience exhibit more prevalent individualism and opposition to redistribution and regulation. We take several steps towards a causal interpretation, including an instrumental variables approach that exploits variation in the speed of westward expansion induced by national immigration inflows. Using linked historical Census data, we identify mechanisms giving rise to a persistent frontier culture. Selective migration contributed to greater individualism, and frontier conditions may have further shaped behavior and values. We provide evidence suggesting that rugged individualism may be rooted in its adaptive advantage on the frontier and the opportunities for upward mobility through effort.

In Defense of Hoosier Home Rule

Published on 8 May 2017 under Featured
In Defense of Hoosier Home Rule

The lead Sunday editorial in the Indianapolis Star (here) and a recent edition of Howey Politics Indiana (here) feature a piece of mine arguing for renewed emphasis on “home rule” by the Indiana state legislature. The idea, modeled off the national principle of federalism, gives more choice, options, flexibility, and freedom to local leaders. Now those ideals are under greater attack than at any time since Hoosier home rule began.

Look Back: First Quarter 2017

Published on 5 April 2017 under Featured
Look Back: First Quarter 2017

As we enter the second quarter of 2017, it seems worthwhile to summarize here some of my academic and popular press pursuits during the first quarter, some of which I have not yet highlighted here. In the month of February I published five popular press pieces:

In January I presented to the Southern Indiana Civil War Roundtable on the topic of “Little Egypt Goes to War,” the roots and beginnings of the 80th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Later in March I presented to the Indiana Political Science Association, first in a roundtable on the American Presidency and then with a paper titled “The Arc of Our New History.”

Southwestern Indiana Civil War Monuments

Published on 31 March 2017 under Civil War

I recently completed minor pages on the history of several Civil War monuments in Southwestern Indiana:

The Jasper monument is particularly interesting because it is one of the rare Union memorials erected in part by a veteran of the Confederate army. After serving for a period with the Confederate army, John Gramelspacher fled and would go on to serve in the Union army. He was even admitted as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Also of note is the Gibson County Civil War Honor Roll Memorial. This was the first regimental monument erected in Indiana in memory of soldiers of the Civil War. Moreover, it claims to be the only monument in Indiana, or in the United States, that was erected and dedicated by any regiment in honor of its dead while that regiment was still in the service.

CMOS to Unveil 17th Edition

Published on 30 March 2017 under Books

Confirming rumors that have been swirling for some time, the Chicago Manual of Style announced this week that it will introduce its 17th edition in September. Included among the changes in the 17th edition, E-mail will become email (no hyphen), Internet will become internet (lowercased), and the use of ibid. for repeated citations will no longer be preferred. The citation chapters will also reflect the ever-changing universe of electronic sources, including social media posts and comments, private messages, and app content.

George W. Rains and the Augusta Powder Works

Published on 29 March 2017 under Civil War

George Washington Rains, 1865

Ted Savas has a new two-part feature article in Civil War Times magazine that reflects some truly ground-breaking research focusing on George Washington Rains and the Augusta Powder Works, the South’s only major source of gunpowder during the Civil War. He writes at his blog, A Publisher’s Perspective:

After years of careful study and in-depth discussion with a couple other historians I respected, I reached conclusions that ran wholly contrary to what everyone else had ever written about Civil War strategy, General Sherman, the Atlanta Campaign, his March to the Sea, and even the beginning of his 1865 Carolinas Campaign.

The work appears to dramatically change and illuminate our understanding of the importance of Augusta and Sherman’s decision regarding the city and its ordnance complex. Savas’s essay is divided into two sections: “Part 1 sets the foundational importance of Augusta and its war industries, and Part 2 combines the objective data balanced against Union decision-making).”