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 about the 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 on what some observers called The Tragedy).
My most recent book project took me back to the American Revolutionary War. Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War (Oxford University Press) 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 Much, however, remains unpublished.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, David Library of the American Revolution (since 2020, the David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society), Penn State Abington, Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Society of the Cincinnati, and Virginia Historical Society (since 2018, Virginia Museum of History and Culture).
A bit more about me: I was born and raised in Germany. I studied at Göttingen University before completing my undergraduate degree in History at Boston College. My thesis, titled ”Life On Parole,” was about the troops from Braunschweig that belonged to the Convention Army (the army under John Burgoyne that entered American captivity as a result of the surrender at Saratoga in October 1777). In 2002, I received a Ph.D. in early American history from Brown University. My doctoral advisor was Gordon S. Wood, and my dissertation focused on the experiences of Germans in the Early American Republic. Since then, I have taught at the University of Georgia and Temple University. In addition, I served as a project archivist at the American Philosophical Society. Since 2010, I have been on the faculty of Penn State Abington College (just outside of Philadelphia), where I am an Associate Professor of History and Division Head for Arts and Humanities.