|Jason S. Lantzer|
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series. The members featured in this column have been randomly selected and then contacted by AHA staff. If you would you like to nominate a colleague for the AHA Member Spotlight, please contact Nike Nivar.
Jason S. Lantzer is an adjunct professor of history at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, and has been an AHA member since 2005.
Current school or alma mater/s: I am a proud graduate of Indiana University (BA, MA, PhD). As an adjunct, I have taught at a variety of schools, including Butler University and IUPUI in Indianapolis.
Fields of interest: I am interested in the intersection of religion, politics, and law in U.S. history. I also look at the transnational nature of reform and political ideas, and their implications for U.S. history.
When did you first develop an interest in history?
I cannot remember a time when I was not interested in history. Since elementary school it was (and remains) my favorite subject. My parents encouraged a love of learning, and I am lucky enough to have a wife who puts up with having a “history geek” as a spouse.
What projects are you working on currently?
My second book, Mainline Christianity: The Past and Future of America’s Majority Faith, was released at the end of April by New York University Press, so I am excited about what comes next! I have some things in mind, ranging from a biography of a Supreme Court justice, to working on Butler University’s relationship to the Civil War, to further exploring issues related to American evangelical Protestantism.
What is the last great book or article you have read?
That would be a tie between two very different books. First would be Thomas Kidd’s biography of Patrick Henry, which was a wonderful look at the founding father from Virginia. The other was David Bernstein’s Rehabilitating Lochner, which in addition to a fine discussion on an important Supreme Court decision and its aftermath, and also showcased how historical memory can be shaped to distort the meaning of an event.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
If you are looking for a big book on a big topic, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years is at the top of my recommendation list.
What do you value most about the history profession?
I value the ability to teach people that history matters. I start each semester by telling my students that history is not a bunch of “facts” or “dates” that need to be memorized, but rather a story about real people, who made real decisions, that had real impacts, not only during in the past but down to the present. Once they understand that, they can move beyond thinking of history as “boring” and see that it matters.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
In 2006, in Philadelphia, I stopped off at the book exhibit area after taking part in a session. My trip reading was Gordon Wood’s The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. While rounding an aisle I literally ran into Professor Wood. All I could do was mumble an apology, as it did not seem like the right time to tell him how much I was enjoying his latest book!
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
The short answer is my family. Whether in small gatherings or large ones, I love just being with family. Additionally, I have been lucky to be able to arrange my professional life around being a stay-at-home dad to my children. Getting to spend time with them and watch them grow has been about the best thing I can imagine.
Any final thoughts?
We as a profession need to continue to make the case that history education matters, at all levels of life. This means guarding it in primary schools and in high schools. It means arguing with administrators that no college education is complete without it. And it means being engaged with the wider public whenever possible.