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James B. LaGrand

Photo of Professor James LaGrandJames B. LaGrand

Professor of American History & Director of the First-Year Core Course
Modern American Political and Social History, Urban History, Public History, Native American History

Office: 264 Boyer Hall
Phone: 717-766-2511 x 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

  • U.S. History, 1865-present syllabus
  • U.S. History, 1890-1945 syllabus
  • U.S. History, 1945-present syllabus
  • The Vietnam War syllabus
  • U.S. Urban History syllabus
  • African-American History since 1865 syllabus
  • Native American History syllabus
  • The American West syllabus
  • Public History syllabus
  • Nationalism and its Discontents in Modern America syllabus
  • My Country, Right or Wrong? America and its Critics
  • Historical Methods (History sophomore seminar) - Fall 2014
  • Historiography and the Philosophy of History (History senior seminar)
  • Created and Called for Community (first-year core course)
  • The Wages of Sin is Death: Breaking Bad as the New American Tragedy syllabus

Selected Publications

Selected Presentations

  • "Martin Luther King's 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' Across the Generations," Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) annual conference, Ottawa, Canada, April 2013.
  • "Is there a Place for the Nation in Modern American History?" Calvin College History Department Colloquia Series, March 2012.
  • "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.
  • "The West in American Life, Culture, and Politics," State Department Summer Institute for University Teachers, Grantham PA, July 2007.
  • "The Beginnings of Chicago's American Indian Community," Conference on Illinois History annual meeting, October 2005.

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.