Department Chairperson of History
I research, write, and teach North American history, from the arrival of humans until today. My work has concentrated on the importance of borders and regional identity in U.S. History; the cultural and political history of slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction; as well as the development of cities.
My newest work considers Black North Americans crossing the U.S.-Canada border during and after the American Civil War, and how their stories change our histories of immigration, Reconstruction, citizenship, the Great Migration, and African Americans generally. I have also done a number of walking tours, to highlight urban history and opportunities for historic preservation and interpretation, from the Slavery in the Bronx to Millard Sheets art and architecture in California and beyond.
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 social-media posts--can be accessed via adamarenson.com.
As I research cities and migrations, I aim to reconstruct how residents made sense of their surroundings. I work with students to use geographic information system (GIS) analysis, data mining, database construction, "Big Data" matching, and migration visualizations in partnership with the Columbia University Data Science Institute Data for Good Program.
For my published and forthcoming work, see below. To download my current c.v., click here.
- PHD, Yale University
- MPHIL, Yale University
- MA, Yale University
- AB, Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges
- HIST 100: Experiencing History
- HIST 206: United States Through 1876
- HIST 231: Introduction to African American History
- HIST 300: Historical Methods
- HIST 371: The American West
- HIST 387: New York City and the American Urban Experience
- United States History, 1776-1917
- Urban Studies
- The American West and its Borderlands
- Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction
- African American History and the Global African Diaspora
- Cultural and Intellectual History
- Immigration and Family History
- Public History
- Digital Humanities
- The Writing of History
Publications and Scholarly Activities
Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California (University of Texas Press, February 2018). Winner of the DOCOMOMO-US 2018 Modernism in America Awards, Citation of Merit for Inventory Survey.
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.
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).
“Back to the Battlefield: A Cultural Historian’s View of Civil War Memorials at Appomattox, Fredericksburg, and Island Mound,” Common-place 14.2 http://common-place.org/vol-14/no-02/arenson/
“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). http://www.common-place.org/vol-08/no-03/arenson/
“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.
“A Forgotten Generation: African Canadian History between Fugitive Slaves and World War I” in Unsettling the Great White North: African Canadian History, Michele A. Johnson and Funké Aladejebi, eds., (University of Toronto Press, 2019); accepted and revised by editors, under peer review.
“Banking with Family in Postwar California: Howard Ahmanson, the Millard Sheets Studio, and the Home Savings and Loan Commissions, 1953-1991,” in Melissa Renn and Monica E. Jovanovich, eds., Corporate Patronage of Art & Architecture in the United States, Late 19th Century to the Present (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), Chapter 10, forthcoming March 2019.
"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:
“The Digital Age Killed Cursive. But it Can’t Kill the Signature. Here’s Why.” Washington Post (May 2, 2018), https://wapo.st/2w5pDsA
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)
“How Your Term Paper Is Like an Episode of CSI,” (December 7, 2015), http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161376
“150 Years Later How Are We Honoring the Memory of Reconstruction? With the Worst Kind of Irony.”(September 28, 2015) http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/160593
“The Dred Scott Case Said Blacks Had No Rights the “White Man Was Bound to Respect.” But in the West Things Turned Out Differently,” (March 8, 2015) http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158681
“Summer is the Season to Fix Immigration,” (July 15, 2013), http://hnn.us/article/152598
“The Future of Newspapers? Watch the Nineteenth Century,” (July 23, 2012) http://hnn.us/articles/future-newspapers-watch-nineteenth-century
New York Times Disunion: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/author/adam-arenson/
(with Virginia Scharff) “The End of the War in the West,” (May 15, 2015)
“The Union’s Fake Canadians,” (September 16, 2014)
“Fighting for the Legacy of Lincoln,” (December 13, 2013)
“African North Americans and the War,” (April 6, 2013)
“Meet America in St. Louis,” (November 28, 2012)
“Lampooning the Union,” (July 27, 2012)
“Secession and Ascension in St. Louis,” (June 14, 2012)
“Anna and the Librarian,” (January 11, 2012)
“Freedom through Bondage,” (September 22, 2011)
“How St. Louis Was Won,” (May 12, 2011)
“The Rise of the West,” (March 8, 2011)
(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. http://huntingtonfrontiers.org/features/paying-dividends/
“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, Meggin.com (May 2011). http://works.bepress.com/adam_arenson/20/
Review of The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America by Matthew Stanley. Journal of American History (March 2018). https://doi.org/10.1093/jahis.jax473
Review of A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland by Sydney Nathans. Journal of Social History (July 19, 2017). https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/shx079
Review of Abolitionizing Missouri: German Immigrants and Racial Ideology in Nineteenth-Century America by Kristen Layne Anderson. Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains 40.3 (Autumn 2017), 221.
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.
Professional Experience and Memberships
- Columbia University Data Science Institute Data for Good Project Director (2019-present)
- Editorial Board, American Nineteenth Century History (2019-present)
- Chair, Humanities Advisory Council, Mapstory.org (2014-2017)
- Telluride Association Board of Directors (2001-2016)
- Organization of American Historians Avery O. Craven Award Committee (2012-2013)
- Western History Association, Dwight L. Smith (ABC-Clio) Award Committee (2016-present)
- Assistant Professor of History, The University of Texas at El Paso (2009-2014)
- See full c.v. for more information.
- American Historical Association
- Organization of American Historians
- Urban History Association
- Western History Association
- Society of Civil War Historians
- Phi Alpha Theta
Honors, Awards, and Grants
Honors & Awards:
Winner, Brother Casimir Gabriel Costello, FSC, Award for Excellence in Teaching, Manhattan College. (2020)
Iwata Distinguished Lecturer, Biola University. (2018)
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)
- Artz Fellowship, Oberlin College Libraries (2022)
New York Genealogical & Biographical Society Labs Team partnership (2017)
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)