Historian telling the story of Civil War America’s opioid crisis

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I’m a historian of the nineteenth-century United States, broadly trained but with particular research and teaching interests in the Civil War era, gender history, and the history of medicine.  Currently, I’m the inaugural Postdoctoral Scholar in Civil War History at Penn State’s George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center, where I’m preparing my first book manuscript for publication. After Penn State, I’ll be joining the Department of History at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) as an Assistant Professor in 2021. I received my PhD in history in 2020 from Binghamton University, where I earned awards for research and teaching.

My current book project, “Opium Slavery: Veterans and Addiction in the American Civil War Era,” investigates opiate addiction among veterans of the Civil War in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century U.S.—America’s original opioid crisis. My research uncovers how the Civil War sparked an epidemic of addiction among the war’s survivors, illuminates the traumatic experiences and great personal toll of addiction for veterans and their families, and explores the radical efforts of Gilded-Age physicians’ and the state to stem the tide of the addiction crisis. My research also reveals how the U.S. has a long, but largely forgotten, history of opioid crises, with troubling parallels between past and present epidemics. This book manuscript is based on my dissertation, which I defended in June 2020. You can read more about my research and access several publications derived from my manuscript here. My second book will investigate medical fraud in the aftermath of the Civil War, a topic with surprising and disturbing relevance in today’s social media age.

History has tremendous power to inform public sentiment, and I’m convinced that communicating hard history to public audiences is one of historians’ most important jobs, especially in these tumultuous times. I enjoy writing for public audiences, with bylines in the Washington Post, Slate, The Conversation, and Nursing Clio, among others, which you can read here. I regularly speak at museums, historical societies, public radio, and podcasts, and you can access some of these talks and interviews here.

In addition to my scholarship and public humanities work, I’m committed to dynamic, student-centered teaching and learning. My teaching agenda includes a diverse range of topics in the histories of the U.S., medicine and science, gender, as well as “history communication” and teacher preparation. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach graduate, undergraduate, high school, and adult education students. You can read about my background in teaching and my teaching approaches and goals here.

I’m a first-generation college graduate from the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. Before earning my PhD I worked as a public school teacher in North Texas, a wonderful experience that taught me to love the craft of teaching and communicating history to popular audiences.

Want to chat about my scholarship, speaking, or teaching? I’d love to hear from you! You can get in touch with me by email here.