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. My book uncovers how the Civil War sparked an epidemic of drug addiction among the war’s survivors—America’s  original opioid crisis—and uncovers the traumatic experiences and personal toll of addiction for veterans and their families. The manuscript also uncovers radical efforts by physicians’ and the state to stem the tide of the addiction crisis, which rippled throughout American medicine and society. Ultimately, my book reveals that the U.S. has a long, but largely forgotten, history of opioid crises, with troubling parallels between past and present. This manuscript is based on my doctoral dissertation, which I defended in June 2020. You can read more about the project and access several publications derived from my manuscript here. My next book will investigate rampant medical fraud in the aftermath of the Civil War, a topic with surprising and disturbing relevance in today’s internet age, when miracle cures are peddled widely across social media.

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’ve published essays on a spectrum of historical topics in outlets including the Washington Post, Slate, and The Conversation, which you can read here. I frequently speak at museums and historical societies, and appear on public radio, television, and podcasts, which you can access here. In the classroom, my teaching agenda includes the Civil War era and nineteenth-century U.S., the history of medicine and science, gender history, as well as “history communication” and teacher preparation. You can read more about about my teaching work here.

I’m a first-generation student 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! Contact me by email here.