Distinguished professor lecture to explore history, limitations of American ‘Manifest Destiny’
LAWRENCE — An award-winning author and historian at the University of Kansas will share some of his multifaceted scholarship during his inaugural distinguished professor lecture later this month.
Andrew Isenberg will present “The Age of the Borderlands: The Limits of American ‘Manifest Destiny,’ 1790-1845,” which will focus on the encounter between Indigenous people and settlers in North America. The lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union.
Individuals can register to attend the lecture, which will also be livestreamed. Additional webinar details will be available upon registration. A recording of the lecture will be posted afterward on the Office of Faculty Affairs website.
Isenberg, the Hall Distinguished Professor of American History, said the widely recognized view of Manifest Destiny limits the narrative. While researching other projects, including a book about the near extinction of the bison and an environmental history of the California gold rush, Isenberg came across details that did not fit into the paradigm of Manifest Destiny.
These included a U.S. effort to vaccinate Indigenous people against smallpox, an attempt to introduce camels into the Southwest and missionaries who tried to protect the culture and autonomy of Indigenous people, he said.
“At first, I thought of these as exceptions to Manifest Destiny's story of unrelenting U.S. expansion,” Isenberg said. “Over time, I started to think that there were so many exceptions to the narrative that it was time to rethink the paradigm of Manifest Destiny. Indigenous people were more powerful than we often recognize. The U.S. was not the surpassing power on the continent and often had to seek accommodations and alliances with Indigenous people. The Manifest Destiny notion that the U.S. was foreordained to conquer the continent was an idea that only gained currency in the early 20th century.”
About Andrew Isenberg
Isenberg’s diverse journey through his scholarship is represented in his numerous authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited books, journal publications and book chapters on American history and American environment. Some of these titles include “The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920,” “Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life,” “The California Gold Rush: A Brief History with Documents” and the forthcoming “The Age of the Borderlands: Indians and Slaves on North American Frontiers, 1790-1850.”
Student mentorship is at the forefront of Isenberg’s teaching history. In 2001, Princeton University recognized his instructional work with its President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the Organization of American Historians appointed him as a distinguished lecturer from 2010 to 2013. He has mentored 18 graduate students through their dissertations. These advisees now hold positions at Southern Methodist University, Wellesley College, Marshall University, Texas Christian University, Pomona College, University of St. Thomas, University of Pittsburgh and St. Mary University, among other institutions.
Before joining the KU faculty, Isenberg taught at the University of Puget Sound, Brown University, Princeton University and Temple University.
Isenberg has held fellowships from the Huntington Library, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fulbright Foundation.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and his master’s and doctorate in history from Northwestern University, where he was mentored by one of the founders of the field of environmental history, Arthur McEvoy.
The first distinguished professorships were established at KU in 1958. A university distinguished professorship is awarded wholly based on merit, following exacting criteria. A complete list is available on the Distinguished Professor website.