As something of a generalist I look for patterns and themes cutting across time and place. My first book, British Friendly Societies, 1750-1914 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003), was a study of a surprisingly neglected subject, the voluntary associations by which working people in Victorian Britain protected themselves from financial disaster in times of sickness and death. Following this book was Mother Jones: Raising Cain and Consciousness (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010), an introduction to the American labor movement through the life of an amazing organizer, written for students in U.S. history surveys. My most recent book is The Iron Road in the Prairie State: The Story of Illinois Railroading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016), which is the first history of the railroad industry in Illinois and embraces the interlocking histories of technology, business, labor, politics, culture, and urbanization.
I am currently working on two books. Revisiting Pullman: Factory and Town Before the Strike is an analysis of how labor relations changed as Pullman’s Palace Car Company expanded from a single workshop to a nationwide manufacturer of railroad cars, looking specifically at the innovative ways of rewarding and controlling labor developed by the corporation's employees and managers. My other book is a study of transatlantic social relations from the eighteenth century to the present, tentatively titled Mutuality in the Modern World.
My degrees, all in History, are from Northern Illinois University (BA), the University of York (MA), and the University of Texas at Austin (PhD), where I worked with Standish Meacham. For two years I worked as an editorial and research assistant at the American Historical Association headquarters office in Washington, DC, and I previously taught at Louisburg College (NC), East Carolina University, Carl Sandburg College, Knox College, Monmouth College, and Western Illinois University. I have been Chair of the History Department here at ISU since August 2016.