Peter C. Messer

Peter C. Messer

Peter C. Messer

Associate Professor

227 Allen Hall


Early American, Early Modern European


662-325-3604

pcm39@history.msstate.edu

Bio

Peter Messer is a historian of Early American politics and culture. His interest lies in the theory and practice of politics in eighteenth-century America, particularly the intersection of natural historical thought and nation building in the era of the Early American Republic.

He has published Stories of Independence: Identity, Ideology, and History in Eighteenth-Century America (Northern Illinois University Press, 2005) and has edited two collections of: Revolution as Reformation: Protestant Faith in the Age of Revolutions, 1688-1832 (University of Alabama Press, 2020) and Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora, 1700-1906 (Lehigh University Press, 2016)

His recent publications include “Benjamin Smith Barton’s Natural History Network: Local Knowledge, and Atlantic Community,” forthcoming in a special issue of Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society; “The Nature of William Bartram’s Travels” in Atlantic Environments and the American South, D. Andrew Johnson and Thomas Blake Earle, ed. University of Georgia Press, 2020; and “‘A scene of Villainy acted by a dirty Banditti, as must astonish the Public’: The Creation of the Boston Massacre,” New England Quarterly, vol. 90 no. 4 (December 2017): 502-39.

Messer's next major project, tentatively titled “Dictated by Nature: Science, Aesthetics and Natural History in the Early American Republic,” explores the relationship between natural-historical thought and the construction of the idea of the United States in the years immediately following American independence.  It focuses on how authors deployed the disinterested and objective pursuit of natural history to reinforce their vision of the new republic and the roles and responsibilities of the various peoples of whom it was constructed.

Education

Ph.D. May 1997, Rutgers University.  Dissertation title, “Stories of Independence: Eighteenth-Century Narratives.”

B.A., June 1990, magna cum laude, University of Oregon.  Major in history.  Honors Thesis, "A Comparison of the American and Nicaraguan Revolutions," Robert D. Clark Honors College, Thesis advisor, Matthew Dennis.

Academic Career

Associate Professor of History and former Dean’s Eminent Scholar (2008-2009), Mississippi State University, 2002-present; tenured and promoted in 2007.

Research Interests

In addition to his current research on natural history, Messer is working on two projects.  One, entitled, “From the Street to the State House: The Politicization of Space in Revolutionary America,” explores the ways in which in the years immediately preceding Independence, American Whigs created a distinctively republican political space by defining the places where “legitimate” political activity might occur and who, and under what conditions, could participate in them.  Another project, tentatively titled “John Greenough’s Revolution: Meetinghouses, Oysters, and Tea and the coming of American Independence,” explores the role of religious controversy, environmental degradation, and economic change played in the coming of the American Revolution on Cape Cod.

Research Fellowships

  • American Philosophical Society-Jack Miller Center Fellow, American Philosophical Society, 2018.
  • Society of Historians of the Early American Republic Fellow, Library Company of Pennsylvania and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2017.
  • College of Arts & Sciences Humanities and Arts Research Program (HARP) 2017, Mississippi State University.
  • Research Fellowship, the David Library of the American Revolution, 2007-2008. 
  • Research Fellowship, New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, 2007-2008. 
  • Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society, 2007-2008. 
  • Research Fellowship, American Philosophical Society, 2007-2008. 

Publications

  • Stories of Independence Book CoverStories of Independence: Identity, Ideology, and History in Eighteenth-Century America (Northern Illinois University Press, 2005) 
  • “Dictated by Nature: Science, Aesthetics and Natural History in the Early American Republic,” book manuscript in progress.
  • “From the Street to the State House: The Politicization of Space in Revolutionary America,” book manuscript in progress.
  • “John Greenough’s Revolution: Meetinghouses, Oysters, and Tea and the coming of American Independence,” book manuscript in progress.

Edited Volumes

  • Revolution as Reformation: Protestant Faith in the Age of Revolutions, 1688-1832, University of Alabama Press, 2020.  Edited with William Harrison Taylor; the collection includes my essay “Old Light Republicanism: Samuel Williams’s Political Theology of Temptation,” and my "Introduction."
  • Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora, 1700-1906, Lehigh University Press, 2016. edited with William Harrison Taylor; the collection includes my essay ""A Blessing or a Curse, Depending on How it is Used": David Ramsay's Presbyterian Abolitionist's Journey," and my "Introduction."

Articles & Book Chapters

  • “Benjamin Smith Barton’s Natural History Network: Local Knowledge, and Atlantic Community,” accepted for inclusion in special issue of Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society.
  • “The Nature of William Bartram’s Travels” in Atlantic Environments and the American South, Andrew Johnson and Blake Earle, ed. forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press.
  • “‘A scene of Villainy acted by a dirty Banditti, as must astonish the Public’: The Creation of the Boston Massacre,” New England Quarterly, vol. 90 no. 4 (December 2017): 502-39.
  • “Stamps and Popes: Rethinking the Role of Violence in the Coming of the American Revolution,” in  . Edited by Patrick Griffin, Robert Ingram, Peter Onuf, and Brian Schoen (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015), 114-138.
  • “Republican Animals: Politics, Science, and the Birth of Ecology,” Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 33 no. 4 (December, 2010), 599-613.
  • “The Image of the Indian in the Imagination of the Early Republic,” in John Wunder and Kurt E. Kinbacher, ed., Reconfigurations of Native North America, Texas Tech University Press (2009):115-139.
  • "Fear the Terror: Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France,  in Isaac Land, ed. Enemies of Humanity: The Nineteenth-Century War on Terrorism, from Palgrave Macmillan (Spring, 2008).
  • “Apparitions of Power: Popular Politics and Culture on the Eve of the English Civil War,” in Gregory Papanikos and Nicholas Pappas, ed., Antiquity and Modernity: A Celebration of European History and Heritage in the Olympic Year 2004.  Essays from the 1st International Conference on European History (Athens: Athens Institute for Education and Research, 2004).
  • "'A Most Insulting Violation': The Burning of the H.M.S. Gaspee and the Delaying of the American Revolution," The New England Quarterly 88:4 (December 2015): 582-622.
  • "Writing Women in History: Defining Gender and Citizenship in Post-Revolutionary America," Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 28 (1999): 341-359.
  • "From a Revolutionary History to a History of Revolution: David Ramsay and the American Revolution,” The Journal of the Early Republic 22:2 (Summer 2002): 205-234.

Papers Presented

  • “From the Green to the Tavern: The Spaces and Places of Political Protest in Revolutionary America,” 51st Annual Conference of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, on-line conference, April 7-11, 2021.
  • “Benjamin Smith Barton’s Natural History Network: Local Knowledge, and Atlantic Community,” Networks: The Creation and Circulation of Knowledge from Franklin to Facebook, American Philosophical Society, June 6-7, 2019.
  • “Old Light Republicanism: Samuel Williams’s Political Theology of Temptation,”  Consortium on the Revolutionary Era, 49th Annual Conference, February 28-March 2, 2019, Atlanta Georgia
  • "“The Perils of Politics: Mobilization and Marginalization of Women in the Imperial Crisis, 1765-1776,” Conference concluding address, Primeras Jornadas Internacioinales de Estudios de Género del Nordeste Argentino y Países Limítrofes, Universidad Nacional Del Nordeste, Resistencia, Argentina, August 9-10, 2018.
  • “Ceremonies and Regime Change in the Revolutionary Period,” Consortium on the Revolutionary Era, 48th Annual Conference, February 22-24, 2018 Philadelphia, PA.
  • “William Bartram’s Uneasy Sublime: An Experiment in Early National Natural History,” McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Feb. 16, 2018.
  • “Disciplined Places and Violent Spaces: The Liberty Riot and Shaping of an American Politics,” 2017 Consortium on the Revolutionary Era annual meeting, February 23-26, 2017, Charleston SC.
  • “Jeremy Belknap’s Picturesque Republic,” Annual Meeting of the American Soceity for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Pittsburgh, PA March 31-April 3, 2016.

Encyclopedia Entries

“History and Biography” entry in Encyclopedia of the New American Nation, ed. Paul Finkelman. (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006). 3 vols. 2:159-161.

“David Ramsay,” and “Historical Thought” entries for the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment, Mark Spencer, ed. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014).

Honors & Awards

APS-Jack Miller Center Fellow, American Philosophical Society, 2018.

Society of Historians of the Early American Republic Fellow, Library Company of Pennsylvania and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2017.

College of Arts & Sciences Humanities and Arts Research Program (HARP) 2017, Mississippi State University.

Research Fellowship, the David Library of the American Revolution, 2007-2008.

Research Fellowship, New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, 2007-2008.

Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society, 2007-2008.

American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 2007-2008.

Research Fellowship, American Philosophical Society, 2007-2008.

Humanities and Arts Research Program Research Fellow, Mississippi State University, 2005-2006.

Society for Historians of the Early Republic Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia, July-August 2006.

William E. Parish Outstanding Faculty Teacher, Mississippi State University, 2005.

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, “British and Indigenous Cultural Encounters in Native North America: 1580-1785,” July-August, 2005.

Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship, The Johns Hopkins University Seminar on National Culture and the Construction of the Modern World, 1997-1998.

Research grant from the Graduate School at Texas A&M University–Commerce, 1999-2000 academic year for project tentatively titled “The Heart and Mind Divided: The Rhetoric of Politics and the Politics of Rhetoric in Revolutionary America.”

Research Fellow, The David Library of the American Revolution, May/June, 1995.

Tri-State Area Fellowship for the Study of the American Revolution, National Society of Colonial Dames, 1994.

Marion Johnson University Fellowship, Rutgers University, 1991-1994.

Phi Beta Kappa, 1990, University of Oregon.

Courses Taught

At Mississippi State, 2002-present: (2/2: 2002-2003, 2005-present) (2/3: 2002-2005)

HI 8933 Graduate Colloquium in U.S. History: Colonial and Revolutionary America
HI 8923 Historiography and Historical Method
HI 8813 Graduate Seminar in U.S. History before 1877
HI 8803 Graduate Colloquium: Science and Nature in the Long Eighteenth Century.
HI 4990/6990 Special Topics: The Frontier in American History, 1607-1890.
HI 4990/6990 Special Topics: European and Indian Encounters in North America, 1500-1783.
HI 4333 Native American History to 1830
HI 4323 History of the American West.
HI 4143/6143 Revolutionary America
HI 4103/6103 Colonial America
HI 3903 Historiography and Historical Method
HI 1063 United States History to 1877

At Texas A&M—Commerce, 1998-2002 (4/4)

HI 521 Readings in Latin American History
HI 550 Topics in American History
HI 551 Readings in United States History to 1775
HI 552 Readings in United States History 1775-
HI 402 Colonial and Revolutionary America
HI 404 Age of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democracy
HI 385 History of South America
HI 397 Special Topics in Non-U.S. History: History of Latin America to 1820.
HI 121 American Heritage

Graduate Program Coordinator, Mississippi State University, 2002-present

Courses proposed and adopted
  HI 8933 Graduate Colloquium in Colonial and Revolutionary America (author)
  HI 8943 Graduate Colloquium in U.S. History, 1787-1877 (co-author)
  HI 8953 Graduate Colloquium in U.S. History, 1877-1945 (co-author)
  HI 8963 Graduate Colloquium in U.S. History, 1945-present (co- author)
  HI 8873 Seminar in International Security and Internal Safety (co-author)
  HI 8883 Seminar in History of Science Technology (co-author)

Curriculum and program changes proposed and adopted
  World History field (with graduate committee)

Curriculum for nodes of excellence in History of Science and Technology, Agricultural, Rural, and Environmental Studies, History of International Security and Internal Safety
 
Written Comprehensive exams for M.A. students

Non-thesis M.A. students required to complete a field outside of their geographic area of concentration

Required research seminar for M.A. students

Required research seminars for Ph.D. students (2)

Required core curriculum for M.A. students (two colloquia)

Required core curriculum for Ph.D. students (four colloquia)

Dissertation Directed

William Harrison Taylor, “‘One Body and One Spirit’: Presbyterians, Interdenominationalism, and the American Revolution.” Mississippi State University, 2009.

Theses Directed

Gary Cole Cheek, Jr., “Cultural Flexibility: Assimilation, Education, and the Evolution of Choctaw Identity in the Age of Transformation, 1800-1830.”  Mississippi State, 2005.  Winner of the Mississippi Historical Association’s 2006 Glover Moore Award for best Master’s thesis on a Mississippi topic.

William Harrison Taylor, “The Road To Democratic Transformation: Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and the Legacy of the American Revolution, 1763-1801.”  Mississippi State, 2005.

Robert Butts, “John Adams and the Boston Massacre,” Texas A&M University–Commerce, 2001.

Dr. Richard Procter, “Stephen A. Marcy: Jeffersonian Explorer,” Texas A&M University–Commerce, 2001.

Professional Associations

Associate of the Omohumndro Institute for Early American History and Culture
Member of the Society for Historians of the Early Republic.
Member of the Organization of American Historians
Member of the American Historical Association

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