Adam Arenson

Adam Arenson

Assoc.Prof./Dir.Urban Studies

Department : History

Email :

Phone : 718-862-7317

Office : MGL 414


AB, Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges
PHD, Yale University
MA, Yale University
MPHIL, Yale University


I research, write, and teach the history and memory of North America and the global nineteenth century. My work has concentrated on the cultural and political history of slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction, as well as the development of cities--from California to the Yukon Territory, from the province of Ontario to St. Louis to El Paso.

Writing accessible history, and engaging a wide audience, is important to me. I have written about my scholarship for The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and I have been a contributor to Civil War Memory and the Making History Podcast. My latest popular publications--whether op-eds, blog posts, or tweets--can be accessed via

In my urban-studies research and teaching, I aim to reconstruct how residents made sense of their surroundings. I use digital-history methods to supplement the written record with material-culture findings and geographic information system (GIS) analysis, and I am exploring the opportunities offered by data mining, database construction, and visualization, in collaboration with the open-source spatiotemporal data foundation

I am currently researching two new research projects: After the Underground Railroad considers the return of African Americans from Canada during and after the Civil War, while Historic Art at Home Savings investigates the history and family-minded art and architecture commissioned from the Millard Sheets Studio for Howard Ahmanson's Home Savings and Loan, and what this artwork means to its communities to this day. For my published work, see below. 



  • United States History, 1776-1917
  • Urban Studies
  • The American West and its Borderlands
  • Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction
  • Cultural and Intellectual History
  • Digital Humanities
  • The Writing of History

Professional Experience

  • Chair, Humanities Advisory Council, (2014-present)
  • Telluride Association Board of Directors (2001-present) 
  • Organization of American Historians Avery O. Craven Award Committee (2012-2013)
  • Assistant Professor of History, The University of Texas at El Paso (2009-2014)
  • See full c.v. for more information. 

Professional Memberships

  • American Historical Association
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Urban History Association
  • Western History Association
  • Society of Civil War Historians
  • St. Louis Mercantile Library
  • State Historical Society of Missouri
  • Southern Historical Association
  • Phi Alpha Theta                   
  • Association for Canadian Studies in the United States

Publications & Professional Activities


The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War (Harvard University Press, 2011; paperback University of Missouri Press, 2015). Winner of the Charles Redd Center-Phi Alpha Theta Book Award for the best book on any aspect of the history of the American West published in 2010 or 2011. 

Co-Edited Books:

Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States, co-edited with Andrew Graybill. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015.)

Frontier Cities: Encounters at the Crossroads of Empire, co-edited with Jay Gitlin and Barbara Berglund (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

Journal Articles:

“Back to the Battlefield: A Cultural Historian’s View of Civil War Memorials at Appomattox, Fredericksburg, and Island Mound,” Common-place 14.2

This is Not How My Book Starts: Looking Back at Writing and Framing,” Rethinking History 17.1 (March 2013), 110-119.

Experience Rather than Imagination: Researching the Return Migration of African North Americans during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,” Roundtable in Memory of Nora Faires Journal of American Ethnic History 32.2 (Winter 2013), 73-77.

George Engelmann’s Barometer: Measuring Civil War America from St. Louis,” Journal of the West 51.3, The Civil War Era and the West Special Issue, (Summer 2012), 27-39.

The Double Life of St. Louis: Narratives of Origins and Maturity in Wade’s Urban Frontier.” Indiana Magazine of History 105.3, Richard Wade Special Issue (September 2009), 246-261.

“Freeing Dred Scott: St. Louis Confronts an Icon of Slavery, 1857-2007.”
Common-place 8.3 (April 2008).

A Cultural Barometer: The St. Louis Mercantile Library as National Institution, 1846-1871.Missouri Historical Review 102.2 (January 2008), 88-102.

Anglo-Saxonism in the Yukon: The Klondike Nugget and American-British Relations in the ‘Two Wests,’ 1898-1901.Pacific Historical Review 76.3 (August 2007), 373-403.

Ansel Adams’s Eucalyptus Tree, Fort Ross: Nature, Photography, and the Search for California,” California History 82.4 (2005), 10-25.

The Role of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Festival in Creating Brazilian American Community, New York Folklore Journal 24.1-4 (1998), 1-30.

Book Chapters:

"Introduction," Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States, co-edited with Andrew Graybill. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015.)

“John Gast’s American Progress: Using Manifest Destiny to Forget the Civil War and Reconstruction,” Empire and Liberty: The American West and the Civil War ed. Virginia Scharff (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015).

(with Kelly J. Sisson Lessens) “Feeding the North,” Introduction to Food in the Civil War Era: The North, ed. Helen Zoe Veit, American Food in History series (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014) 1-22.

“Death in the Nineteenth Century: Tradition, Technology, and the Conflicts of the Modern,” in Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem and Mourning Photography from the Thanatos ArchiveJacqueline Bunge Barger, ed. (2014), 124-127.

Dred Scott versus the Dred Scott Case: The History and Memory of a Signal Moment in American Slavery, 1857-2007,” in The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law Paul Finkelman, David Konig, and Christopher Bracey, eds., Ohio University Press, 25-46.

Libraries in Public before the Age of Public Libraries: Interpreting the Furnishings and Design of Athenaeums and Other ‘Social Libraries,’ 1800-1860,” in The Library as Place: History, Community and Culture John Buschman and Gloria J. Leckie, eds., (Westport, Ct.: Libraries Unlimited-Greenwood Press, 2007), 41-60.

Writing for a Wider Public:

Co-Coordinator, Past Tense seminar, Huntington Library; sponsored by the Huntington-USC Early Modern Studies Institute and Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (2010-2015)

(with the L.A. Conservancy volunteers and staff) “Millard Sheets: A Legacy of Art and Architecture” booklet in conjunction with Pomona Valley sites tour. (2012)

“Paying Dividends: How Home Savings & Loan Perfected the Art of Banking in Southern California,” Huntington Frontiers (Fall/Winter 2011-2012), 18-24. 

More Than Just a Prize: The Civil War and the American West,” Western History Association Newsletter (Fall 2011), 5-7 

How Research Blogging Improves Urban History,” Urban History Association Newsletter (August 2011), 10-11. 

“Facing Out from the Academy,” teleseminar presentation, Emphasis on Excellence faculty development, (May 2011).

Book Reviews:

Review of On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 by Diane Mutti Burke. Journal of the Civil War Era 2.4 (December 2012), 607-610.

Review of Missouri’s War: The Civil War in Documents, ed. Silvana R. Siddali. Missouri Historical Review 105.2 (January 2011), 117-118.

Review of Empire’s Edge: American Society in Nome, Alaska 1898-1934 by Preston Jones. Pacific Historical Review 77.2 (May 2008), 330-332.

Manuscript Reviews for Oxford University Press, University of Nebraska Press, Bedford-St. Martin’s, McGraw-Hill, University of Toronto Press, and Journal of Urban History (2009-present).

See full c.v. for details on media commentaries, interviews, and more. 

Honors & Awards

  • Fulbright Specialist Roster (2013-2017)
  • College of Liberal Arts Nominee, University of Texas Regents Outstanding Teaching Award (2013)
  • Outstanding Performance Award, UTEP Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (2013)
  • Finalist, Hiett Prize in the Humanities (2012)
  • Invited Participant, Project CONNECT Mentoring Seminar for new Canadian Studies scholars (2011)
  • Lewis E. Atherton Dissertation Prize, State Historical Society of Missouri, for the best dissertation in Missouri history or biography in the previous year (2009)
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard (2000)


  • Howard Ahmanson Fellowship, Ahmanson Foundation (2014-2015)
  • American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship (2014-2015; unable to accept this year).
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2013-2014)
  • UTEP Arts and Humanities Career Enhancement Grant (2012-2014)
  • Humanities Texas Major Media Grant (2013-2014)
  • Haynes Foundation Fellowship, Huntington Library (2012)
  • Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University, Public Programming Award for Digital Mapping of El Paso (2011-2012)
  • UTEP Student Employment Program for research assistance (2010-2014)
  • Jonathan Heritage Foundation Fellowship, Autry National Center (2011)
  • UTEP University Research Institute competition (2010-2011)
  • Tesoro-Kinney Fellow, Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders (2007-2008)
  • William E. Foley Research Fellowship, Missouri State Archives (2007)
  • Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Graduate Research Fellowship (2007)
  • Richard S. Brownlee Fund Grant, State Historical Society of Missouri (2006-2007)
  • St. Louis Mercantile Library Research Fellowship (2006)
  • Jacob K. Javits Fellowship for the Humanities (2002-2006)


Courses Taught/Teaching

United States History to 1877

Introduction to Urban Studies

History of New York City

History of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era

LinkedIn Profile


Personal Website

The Cultural Civil War - Research Page