I’m a historian of the United States Civil War era and American medical history. In fall 2021, I joined the Department of History at Virginia Military Institute as an assistant professor. Previously in 2020-21, I was the inaugural Postdoctoral Scholar in Civil War History at Penn State’s George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center. I received my PhD in history in 2020 from Binghamton University, where I earned awards for research and teaching.
My first book manuscript, “Opium Slavery: The Civil War, Veterans, and America’s First Opioid Crisis” (under advance contract with UNC Press), investigates opioid addiction among veterans of the U.S. Civil War. “Opium Slavery” uncovers how the Civil War sparked an epidemic of drug addiction among the war’s survivors—America’s first opioid crisis—and investigates the traumatic experiences and personal toll of addiction, which upended the lives of veterans and their families. The book also illuminates radical efforts by physicians and the state to stem the tide of the addiction crisis, which rippled throughout American medicine and society in unexpected ways. Ultimately, “Opium Slavery” reveals the disastrous health and social effects of the Civil War for many survivors. The book also illuminates the U.S.’s long, but largely forgotten, history of opioid crises, with deeply troubling parallels between past and present.
“Opium Slavery” has been covered in the Washington Post, HISTORY, NPR, and BBC, among other outlets. This manuscript is based on my doctoral dissertation, which won the Society of Civil War Historians’s Anne Bailey Dissertation Prize, the inaugural Chancellor Distinguished PhD Graduate Dissertation Award from SUNY, and Binghamton University’s Distinguished Dissertation Award. You can read more about the project and access publications derived from the manuscript here.
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 wide range of historical topics in outlets including Vice, Slate, Washington Post, and The Conversation, which you can read here. I frequently appear on public radio, television, and podcasts and speak at museums and historical societies, which you can access here.
In the classroom, my teaching agenda includes the Civil War and Reconstruction era, the history of medicine and health in American and global contexts, gender history, and “history communication.” You can read more about my teaching goals and practices and access recent syllabi here. I’m a first-generation college graduate and Pell Grant recipient from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Before earning my PhD I worked as a public school teacher in Texas, a wonderful experience that taught me to love teaching and communicating history to popular audiences.
Want to chat? Contact me by email at jonesjs [at] vmi.edu