Why Blog? Why Now?

For the better part of a decade and a half, I have let others define me on the Internet.  I have had some role as I crafted my various academic department profile pages to be as direct but also as oblique as possible.  I always felt a great desire to be the person that I was hired to be (or hoped to be hired to be), namely an early American historian with an even more constricted research specialization in the history of technology, work and environments.  This helped hide my darkest professional secret.  In a world of ever more specialized academics, I am a promiscuous generalist.  I will skulk no longer.

I never considered myself strictly an early Americanist or an environmental historian, I am simply a historian.  I range broadly across thematic fields and even disciplines, if their methods and tools can help illuminate the past better for my audiences.  I work with printed texts, manuscript financial records, portraits and long buried shipwrecks, if the sources can help me answer an interpretative question in an intriguing way.  I will write for academics, undergraduate students, the informed public and uninformed public.  I am uncomfortable with boundaries and I cross them at will – wall or no wall, paywall or no paywall.

Thus, what you will find here will not be the normally tightly defined categories of the academic but a hodge-podge. Topically, you will find research gleanings on New England shipbuilding, Worcester sewers, Captain John Smith, visual cultures of accounting, and urban farming across centuries.  Pedagogically, you will find efforts to teach information literacy as both information and literacy are rapidly changing.   Connecting what to some will seem a mess but to me is the beautiful chaos of a promiscuous generalist will be a central line on the potential and limitations of real and imagined digital tools to advance history, civic engagement and social understanding.

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