Cameron Strang, assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno, is publishing his first book, a project that he began in graduate school.
Frontiers of science: Imperialism and Natural Knowledge in the Gulf South Borderlands, 1500-1850 exposes the importance of encounters among cultures in shaping American intellectual life to this day.
"The book focuses on the big picture of science in early America, hoping to not only educate but start a conversation," Strang said. "Many of the stories I've uncovered about people in the southern borderlands suggest that we need to rethink the scope and character of America's intellectual history."
Strang earned his bachelor of art's degree from McGill University, his master of art's degree from the University of New Hampshire, and his doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. His dissertation formed the rough draft of the book, and he spent four more years revising and expanding the dissertation into a monograph.
Research for the book took him to more than 20 archives from Louisiana all the way to Spain. At these collections, Strang worked with sources in English, Spanish and French.
"The largest challenge I had to overcome during the writing process was to embrace the importance of stories that, according to conventional histories of science, haven't counted as important," Strang said. "Much of the book highlights that diverse Americans in diverse places all participated in a shared intellectual world, one fundamentally shaped by European and U.S. imperialism."
Historian Adam Rothman of Georgetown University writes that "Cameron Strang's fascinating Frontiers of Science argues that the clash of empires in the colonial and early national American South animated a wide range of knowledge projects, from cartography and astronomy to geology and ethnology. Strikingly, Strang shows that these were not merely the hobbies of elite white men but involved a wide and unruly cast of characters often left out of histories of science in early America."
Strang received support for his research from the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the National Science Foundation, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study and several other institutions.
His second book will focus on Native American explorers. The idea for this book grew out of Frontiers of Science and will include a wider perspective on the importance of Native intellectuals in American history and the role of indigenous explorers in global history.
Strang's book is available for pre-order purchase on Amazon, as well as from the University of North Carolina Press. The hardcover will be available in August.