My quest for a professional understanding of history started at Illinois Wesleyan University. I graduated in 2007 with a BA in History. Which gives the impression that I studied History. All of it. Which is a lie. While I was there I had a few focuses:

Tudor Stuart England: Most of my classes covered topics within this time period, which is to say from the succession of Henry VII after the War of the Roses to the much later Glorious Revolution when William and Mary of Orange came over from the continent to pick up their crowns by request of Parliament.  I studied things like sex, gender, and power under King James I, the growth of English Common Law, the debacle that was the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and the religious animosity of the period as Catholics, Protestants, and Nonconformists (everyone else) duked it out in pamphlets and wars.

Yes, this time period includes Henry VIII and his wives. No, I don’t know all that much about them.

Early Twentieth Century United States: My other classes fell largely into this not-really-a-melting pot. I looked at immigration policy and the stories of Germans and Irish folk. I also took a class on the changing roles of women in this time period, which is where I picked up a fascination in consumer culture, advertising, and changing expectations for work and leisure time. Industrialization was/is one of my areas of interest here.

History of Philosophy: My thoroughly kick-ass advisor, the same professor who taught all the Tudor-Stuart classes, also taught some old-school classes in things like the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Naturally, I signed up for those, too, because any man who stands up on his chair in the middle of rants and throws books across the room is worth listening to on multiple subjects.

My introduction to the history of philosophy terrified me. I had never thought about human understanding with any particular care, and reading through Decartes, Voltaire, Kant, and Condorcet was new, difficult, and at times jarring. But I’ve grown to understand and love the Enlightenment, as well as pragmatically consider its dangerous side. These history of philosophy classes gave me my earliest introduction to the history of science, too.


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