Contact the Honors Program

Messiah University Honors Program

One University Avenue
Suite 3044
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055


Phone: 717-766-2511
Fax: 717-796-4790


James B. LaGrand
James B. LaGrand

Director of the Honors Program; Professor of American History

James B. LaGrand

Director of the Honors Program; Professor of American History 717-766-2611 ext.7381


Educational Background

  • Ph.D., U.S. History, Indiana University, 1997
  • M.A., U.S. History, Indiana University, 1992
  • B.A., History, Calvin College, 1990


James B. LaGrand is a historian of modern America. He teaches a wide range of courses on American history since the mid-nineteenth century, and his research and writing focuses on the intertwining of political and social history during this time. He serves as a referee, editorial reviewer, and consultant for journals, scholarly presses, and textbooks. Before moving to Pennsylvania to teach at Messiah College in 1997, he lived in Boston; Ottawa, Canada; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Bloomington, Indiana. He and his wife, Betsy, and their three children live in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

Courses Taught

  • HIST 142: U.S. History, 1865-present syllabus
  • HIST 151: "The Wild, Wild West": Battles Over the American West and the Western Image syllabus
  • HIST 154: Vietnam War America syllabus
  • HIST 258: Historical Methods (History sophomore seminar) syllabus
  • HIST 346: U.S. History, 1890-1945 syllabus
  • HIST 347: U.S. History, 1945-present syllabus
  • HIST 351: Native American History syllabus
  • HIST 352: African-American History since 1865 syllabus
  • HIST 355: U.S. Urban History syllabus
  • HIST 393: Public History syllabus
  • HIST 399: Nationalism and its Discontents in Modern America syllabus
  • HIST 401: Historiography and the Philosophy of History (History senior seminar) syllabus
  • HONR 497: My Country, Right or Wrong? America and its Critics (honors senior seminar) syllabus
  • IDCR 151: Created and Called for Community (first-year core course) syllabus
  • IDWV 300: The Wages of Sin is Death: Breaking Bad as the New American Tragedy syllabus

Selected Publications


Selected Presentations

  • “Bach’s Bible and Ours,” Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, Baylor University, October 2017.
  • “Insiders and Outsiders in American Indian History,” American Society for Ethnohistory annual meeting, Nashville TN, November 2016.
  • “Revisiting Harrisburg’s City Beautiful Movement amid the Digital Turn,” Pennsylvania Historical Association annual meeting, Grantville PA, October 2015.
  • “The War on Poverty at 50,” Harrisburg Rotary Club, February 2014.
  • “Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ Across the Generations,” Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) annual conference, Ottawa, Canada, April 2013.
  • “The Promise and Problems of Progressivism in Industrial America,” Center for Vision and Values Lecture Series, Grove City College, March 2012.
  • “Protestant-Inspired Reform in the City: The Search for Solidarity and Connection,” Conference on Faith and History biennial meeting, George Fox University, October 2010.

Current Activities

James is currently working on a project entitled “Reform in the American Grain: The Idea of the Nation in Modern Social Movements” which explores the role played by American nationalism and national identity in various social movements--including the labor movement, anti-war movements, the civil rights movement, and the New Left and New Right. A second project focuses on the progressive movement from early-twentieth-century America and the ways in which its themes of connection, solidarity, and moral reform continue to be heard in contemporary social, political, and religious life.

Olivia Swarner
Olivia Swarner

Honors Program Assistant

Olivia Swarner

Honors Program Assistant 717-766-2511 ext. 7099