Monday, November 15, 2004


About me

I recently completed my doctoral degree in history at Johns Hopkins University. I came to Baltimore by way of Sinton, Texas (where I was born and grew up), San Antonio, Texas (where I adolesced), and College Station, Texas (where I received my B.A. in history and my M.A. in philosophy from Texas A&M University). Beginning in September, I will be an assistant professor of history at the University of Denver. Further particulars can be found in my curriculum vitae.

The history of how I became an historian goes all the way back to my eighth-grade history teacher, Mr. Montgomery, who printed Calvin and Hobbes cartoons on our exams and delivered a still memorable lecture on the defeat of the Spanish Armada. I remember being assigned to write two papers on historical "mysteries" -- whether Davy Crockett surrendered himself at the Alamo, and whether Meriwether Lewis committed suicide. We were given primary documents and asked to take a position. I learned at that early stage that, in the words of Dutch historian Pieter Geyl, history is an argument without end.

Mr. Mont, as he was wont to be called, also began every class by having us write a brief essay on the "Thought for the Day" that was written on the chalkboard, usually a quotation by someone like Confucius ("Confuse-us," we called him). That daily experience also impressed on me that studying history inevitably leads to questions about what it means to be human. One has to be careful to avoid anachronism while asking these questions. But not to ask them at all would be worse: it would make history nothing more than an antiquarian hobby.

My parents deserve the largest share of credit for my interest in books and history. One summer in my elementary years, they brilliantly bribed me into reading a list of classic books like Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped and John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur, promising that if I finished the list they would buy me a Sega Master System. Now, the video game console is somewhere on the dustbin of history, and the books remain.

A few words of qualification about this blog: I reserve the right to change my mind about things, because I think of most posts as improvisations -- essays rather than pieces of scholarship. I also write effusive posts about my love for jazz. Some might find the extent of my enthusiasm for this music slightly embarrassing, but my position is this: if you know of something that gives you sheer delight, why not share the love? I also post occasionally on politics, religion, and other subjects that strike my fancy. But as the blog has developed since 2004, it has become increasingly focused on history, teaching, and my academic interests.

Revised 15 April 2006

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