About this site

Thanks for stopping by.  Here you can read my research shorts, which I call tidbits, and longer pieces I’ve stashed in the trove. I’ve also shared links to my writing from elsewhere as well as audio and video from recent presentations.

Is the world more complex and challenging than ever?  For some of us, yes; for others of us, the world has always been just this complex and challenging or more so.  The volume of information we can access or that is thrust upon us can make it seem like all of a sudden things are happening, and it’s all new and all newly intense.  History is helpful both for putting the kinds of issues we confront into perspective (this isn’t new, or this actually is new) and for helping us see how we have arrived at this moment.

This is a space to share my musings, my research, and my writing on subjects that range across early America, books and reading, history, the humanities, and libraries.  I’m interested in what we know, and why we know it–how we have come to know some things and not others, which is why I write about archives and libraries and historiography.  I’m passionate about the importance of seeing early America as a complex, diverse, often violent place that sits at the foundation of a great experiment in democracy.  

I’m also a fiend for the synergy of reading and writing.  I want to know more about how and why we read, how that has a specific context and history, and what role books in particular are playing in our world right now.  I read about writing, and I write about reading.

You’ll find here blog posts, tidbits or in the trove, about all of these subjects, tagged by topic, as well as lots of images related both to my research and to my work in one of the world’s great research libraries.

I’m so glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll enjoy what you find, and that you’ll share your responses on social media or by contacting me directly.


Just about every day I come across research tidbits or selections of writing that strike me as interesting or worth more thought than I can give them right then.  But I’d still like to share.  That’s what this space is for.  It’s a bit like a commonplace book, a genre I have read and written about for decades.


When I started this blog about 6 years ago, I wanted a space where I could write somewhat casually.  I love writing for other outlets and for specific audiences, including in my position now at the John Carter Brown Library and Brown University and previously at the Omohundro Institute and William & Mary.  But here I’m just writing about whatever strikes me – and without the benefit of an editor!


I keep up a decent schedule of writing and speaking in various venues, mostly for my job but also as a research historian. You can read, listen, or view much of that work here.

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