My early scholarly interests focused on the social and cultural history of southern Appalachia. How did stereotypes of the mountaineers develop? I try to provide an answer in my book, Two Worlds in the Tennessee Mountains (1997). Although I continue to keep my fingers in that intellectual pie, the broad range of courses I teach at Juniata has led me to research and write about topics as different as Indian-white relations in colonial Pennsylvania and the role of music in the modern Civil Rights Movement.
My current research combines my scholarly and teaching interests in environmental history and in the American Revolution. I hope my current book project, Grounding the American Revolution: An Environmental History of the War of Independence, will give those interested in the Revolution a richer understanding of the war by highlighting the interactions between humans and the natural environment, and those interested in U.S. environmental history a sense of how the Revolutionary period helps to explain subsequent American attitudes towards the environment.
So far, I have looked at topics such as giant American white pine trees that the Royal Navy used as masts on its largest ships; at supplies of food, hay, and wood during the war’s first year; at battlefields that have remaining in their soil many tons of lead in the form of musket balls; and at America’s unsuccessful efforts to produce saltpetre, the main ingredient in gunpowder. Using the actual instructions that newspapers and the Continental Congress published for making saltpetre, I will work with Juniata College Chemistry students to create and test a variety of samples. We will make the gunpowder, fire balls from replica muskets at ballistic gel, and see which samples would have best served the Continental Army in 1775.
In the not-too-distant future, I would also like to tackle a number of other topics: race relations in the Alaskan town of Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898; the role of the coyote in American history and culture; and an environmental interpretation of the Civil Rights Movement.
- A Mountaineer in Motion: The Memoir of Dr. Abraham Jobe, 1817-1906 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009).
- Two Worlds in the Tennessee Mountains: Exploring the Origins of Appalachian Stereotypes (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997). [Winner of the Appalachian Studies Award for Best Original Manuscript, from the Appalachian Studies Association and The University Press of Kentucky, 1996]
Articles and Book Chapters
- “Environmental History and the War of Independence: Saltpetre and the Continental Army’s Shortage of Gunpowder,” in The American Revolution Reborn, Patrick Spero and Michael Zuckerman, eds. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming).
- “Mast Trees, the British Navy, and the American Revolution,” in Forest and Environmental History of the British Empire/Commonwealth, Vinita Damodaran and Rohan Dsouza, eds. (Delhi, India: Primus Books, forthcoming).
- “The Rich Diversity of the Edge,” Common-Place, 14:3 (Spring 2014), www.common-place.org
- Guest co-editor with Allen Dieterich-Ward, “Environmental Histories of the Mid-Atlantic,” special issue of Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, 79/4 (Autumn 2012).
- "Food, Fuel, and the New England Environment in the War for Independence, 1775-1776," The New England Quarterly, 80/4 (December 2007): 614-654. [Winner of the Theodore C. Blegen Award from the Forest History Society, for the best article in forest and conservation history during 2007]
- "Freedom Songs and the Modern Civil Rights Movement," OAH Magazine of History, 19/4 (July 2005): 23-26.
- "Stereotypes," in High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place, Tyler Blethen and Richard Straw, eds. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004): 101-113.
- "Real Work, Not Busy Work, Part II: The Primary Source Paper," Teaching History, 29:1 (Spring 2004): 36-40.
- "Real Work, Not Busy Work: The Place Paper," Teaching History, 28:2 (Fall 2003): 92-96.
- "Death on the Juniata: Delawares, Iroquois, and Pennsylvanians in a Colonial Whodunit," Pennsylvania History, 65/4 (Autumn 1998): 445-477.
- "'Seeing' Early Appalachian Communities Through the Lenses of History, Geography, and Sociology," in David Colin Crass, Steven D. Smith, Martha A. Zierden, and Richard D. Brooks, eds.The Southern Colonial Backcountry: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Frontier Communities (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1998), 162-181.
- “Geographic Determinism and Possibilism: Interpretations of the Appalachian Environment and Culture in the Last Century,” Journal of the Appalachian Studies Association, 4 (1992): 14-23.