I am a historian whose research focuses on the experiences of German-speaking people in North America from the 1770s to the late nineteenth century. My first book, The Trial of Frederick Eberle: Language, Patriotism and Citizenship in Philadelphia’s German Community, 1790-1830, is a microhistory that uses the 1816 legal trial of around five dozen German Americans as a prism through which to explore prevalent notions of citizenship, language, and patriotism in the first four decades after the Revolution (go here for more The Trial of Frederick Eberle). Another project also focuses on a legal battle albeit a very different one: the sensational murder trial of a German-born physician in post-Civil War Pennsylvania. The case triggered passionate debates about a range of issues, including immigration and the use of forensic evidence in criminal cases (go here for more The Tragedy).
My current book project takes me back to the American Revolutionary War. It examines the experiences of the estimated 30,000 German soldiers – collectively known as “Hessians” – that participated in the war on the British side.
I am a passionate believer in the importance of primary sources for historical research. Over the past few years, digitization has made it easier to access a growing body of such material. Much, however, remains unpublished. For my work, moreover, I am drawing heavily on German-language records that were written in the script known as Kurrentschrift. Here is an example:
Archival research requires time and patience. It also often requires traveling. I am fortunate that my research has been supported with funding by a number of organizations. They include the American Philosophical Society, Clements Library (University of Michigan), German Historical Institute (Washington, D.C.), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Library Company of Philadelphia, Penn State Abington, Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Society of the Cincinnati, and Virginia Historical Society.
A bit more about me: I was born and raised in Germany. I studied at Göttingen University for a couple of years before completing my undergraduate degree at Boston College and a Ph.D. in early American history at Brown University. Since 2010, I have been on the faculty of Penn State Abington College, where I am an Associate Professor of History and Division Head for Arts and Humanities.