About Me

I am an associate professor of history at Penn State University and the Director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center. My work considers the role of personal relationships and networks in the nineteenth century, with a particular focus on politics, culture, constitutionalism, law, and slavery.

My first book, Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War, examines how the social lives of federal politicians in Washington in the 1840s and 1850s created a political fraternity that left them unprepared for and surprised by the secession crisis during the winter of 1860-1861.

My current book project, entitled The Political Supreme Court (under contract with Ferris & Ferris at UNC Press), examines the political world of U.S. Supreme Court justices from the early nineteenth century to the 1890s. You can learn more about this project from my research and some of my public writing and speaking.

I teach courses on the Civil War era, constitutional history, the history of U.S. slavery, and the memory and culture of the mid-nineteenth century.

As an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, I offer public and academic talks in both in-person and virtual settings. You can request a lecture from me or any of the other amazing historians who are part of the program here.

As the director of the Richards Center, I oversee several important projects including the flagship journal of the period the Journal of the Civil War Era, the annual Brose Lecture Series, and a prominent post-doctoral fellowship program. I am also the Series Editor for the Brose Book Series at the University of North Carolina Press.

I’m a graduate of Stanford University (BA) and the University of Virginia (MA & PhD). Before coming to Penn State, I was an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma and an affiliated faculty member at the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage at OU. I’m also a Chicago native and a serious baseball fan (go White Sox!).