About the Blog

My name is Michael Lynch.  I’m an East Tennessee native with a B.A. in History from Lincoln Memorial University and an M.A. in U.S. History from the University of Tennessee, where I’m currently a Ph.D. candidate in early American history. I’m back at my alma mater as the director of the Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Library and Museum and an instructor of history.

I just defended my dissertation, which examines the impact of eighteenth-century gender norms on frontiersmen’s participation in the American Revolution.  Focusing on southwestern Virginia and present-day East Tennessee, I argue that contemporary ideas about what it meant to be a man had a profound and paradoxical effect on settlers’ relationship to the Revolution.  Backwoodsmen’s commitment to the ideal of independent manhood initially pulled them into the struggle against Britain, but gender norms also strained the coalition between frontier and seaboard, and finally brought about that coalition’s collapse when the war ended.

My M.A. thesis examined evolving interpretations of Revolutionary War militiamen who fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain and the forces that shaped the way Americans remembered that event.  (If you’d like to know more about my research and my professional/academic  background, check out my other website.)

I spent a few years doing adjunct professor gigs, but a lot of my career has been spent in public history.  In previous stints at the ALLM I helped research, write, and design exhibits in addition to assisting with collections management, publications, and various other duties.  I also spent a year running a historic house museum in Kentucky, and I was a graduate assistant for academic programs at the McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture.  I spent a few years on the board of the Gov. John Sevier Memorial Association, which provides support and oversight for Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville, TN.

This site is basically my personal soapbox for expounding on matters relating to American history, primarily from the colonial era through the Civil War.  Historical books, sites, exhibits, debates, myths, personalities, and preservation are all fair game.  I’m especially interested in the American Revolution and the early history of Tennessee.  As a longtime dinosaur fanatic, I tend to post about matters prehistoric and paleontological, too, so don’t be shocked if you find me meandering into the really distant past.

As John Lawton said, “The irony of the Information Age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion.”  I hope you find my opinions here to be informed, but not too respectable. And it should go without saying that the opinions expressed on this blog are solely mine, and not those of any institutions or organizations with which I’m affiliated,

If you’d like to email me, the address is mlynch5396@hotmail.com.  Feel free to follow my dual Twitter accounts, too.  My professional Twitter handle is @mlynchhist, where I keep my historian hat planted firmly atop my head.  My other handle is @mlynch5396, where I’m liable to tweet about anything that piques my interest.

Oh, and if you’re curious about the painting in the header at the top of the blog, click here.

27 responses to “About the Blog

  1. Allow me to express my compliments on the clean look and strong content of your blog. I like the way you report news that’s current but relatively durable, too, and the casual tone. New to the blogging world myself, I see your work as a model.

  2. Ditto the above comments..I have developed a personal blog on my military history interests…perhaps you might add to your links?
    I am a History adjunct with American Military University..
    will highly recommend your site to my students

  3. mlynchhistory

    Hi Russ,

    Consider it done! Thanks for the kind words.


  4. Michael,

    Talk about timeliness! Already, I have utilized two of your topic threads to provide as reading resources and “thought pieces” in a tool we use called Discussion Boards. The courses are: HIST 402 Colonial America (Alan Taylor’s American Colonies (New York: Viking, 2001) is the textbook) and HIST 101 – American History to 1877.

    Here is my introduction to your discussion(s):

    “This is an excellent example of how topics of historical merit can and should be selectively examined and intelligently discussed in the blogosphere….the key is the word “selectivity” …understanding and using the historian’s tools to arrive at as best an objective interpretation of events and their meaning – all the while recognizing that the search for truth is constrained by the factors of time, available access, consideration, and weighting of primary and secondary sources and the inevitable individual and subjective bias each historian brings to the process. Or, as Michael Lynch, the blog owner and author of the posts below, more eloquently and lucidly phrases it:

    “The historian’s tools are, as Lipstadt said, history and truth. If the weight of the evidence and the employment of reason lead inexorably to a conclusion, and they still fail to convince someone, then they just won’t be convinced. The problem then will be one of perception, not historical interpretation—and certainly not one of law. The historian’s job is to examine the evidence with a clear mind, find the explanation that best fits that evidence, and then present that explanation. I’ve got enough faith in the discipline to think that sooner or later the best hypothesis will come out on top.” (from “History by fiat” discussion of blacks Confederates)

    FYI – I have been an adjunct with AMU since 2000. Last year, I taught almost 300 students online in 3 courses..and a unique and worthy student body they are indeed, one I’m proud to serve. Please pardon the plug from the university’s website:

    “30,000 distance learners studying in 50 states and more than 100 countries” – “the best of the best.”

    A high percentage are serving military (I’m retired active duty Army myself), as well as federal, state or local government employees – lots of first responders – purposeful adult learners


  5. mlynchhistory

    Cool! Thanks for making use of the blog. Keep me posted on how it works out, and feel free to stop by and comment anytime. I appreciate it!


  6. Michael,

    Don’t post this if inappropriate –
    Might I recommend a site for your Blogroll I recently discovered? A well meaning blog on the life and works of the preeminent (sorry Alan Eckert fans) Colonial/AM Rev historical fiction writer?

    Kenneth Roberts – The Unoffical Site


  7. mlynchhistory

    Looks interesting! I’ll put it on the blogroll, and thanks for the heads-up.


  8. Michael,
    My name is Danny, and I am responsible for the Kenneth Roberts site. I want to thank you for posting a link to my blog on your blog. I was pleasantly surprised to see a post on my blog! Like you, I’m not particularly fond of blogs as a primary means of communication – much rather sit with a good book, pen and paper – but see the value of blogging in an ever increasing virtual world (sigh). I’ve not had the chance to really look through your blog, but I REALLY like what I see so far. I am a huge American Revolution fan (primarily a result of my reading of Roberts) and am glad to see a blog devoted to it! Again, thanks and I look forward to reading your work!

  9. mlynchhistory

    Hi Danny,

    No problem! Thanks for stopping by.


  10. I’m glad to see such a thoughtful and visually uncluttered blog. My own historical interests are far-ranging, including a just-completed novel about Timur’s defeat of Ottoman sultan Bayezid in 1402 and its consequences. I also have a short story posted about an imagined incident during the Paris Commune (Courbet meets the anarchist school teacher Louise Michel), and several pieces inspired by Latin American history. Imagining the lives and choices facing people in other times and cultures is fun in itself, but also good exercise in empathy that we need for current times.

  11. Great post. Hope to read a lot more good posts in the future.

  12. Hello Michael,

    This message is from a group of history educators in Pennsylvania who have developed a Civil War project that is in the process of raising a modest amount of money to build prototypes for gathering additional partners.
    Our project, the Civil War Augmented Reality Project, is intended to enhance the experiences of visitors to Civil War sites. It is also intended to increase attendance and revenue for historic sites by offering both “high” and “low” tech experiences to best reach the majority of the population.
    We feel that our project is fulfilling a need that educators, park workers, technology enthusiasts, and Civil War enthusiasts have discussed in the past: How can historic sites both raise public interest in their institutions though technology, and not alienate the non-technical history fans?
    We have worked hard on the answer, and are interested in promoting our creative solutions.
    We would like to make clear that the project is not intended solely for Pennsylvania. It is our hope that the project will expand to other venues, as we feel that we have the ability to use our ideas to enhance the experiences of all Americans at historic sites.

    If you have a chance, please check out our blog:

    And our fun, Civil-War flavored funding campaign on Kickstarter:

    If you think that our project has merit, we would be delighted if you could help spread the word, and mention it in your blog.

    Here are a few other links of interest regarding our project:

    A recent newspaper article:

    Other recent blog posts:

    Our Facebook page:

    Our Twitter account page:

    Thanks very much for considering us!

    The Civil War Augmented Reality Project
    Jeff Mummert- Hershey High School and York College of Pennsylvania
    Art Titzel- Hershey Middle School
    Jay Vasellas- Red Lion Area High School and York College of Pennsylvania

  13. Pingback: More Blog Love « The Civil War Augmented Reality Project

  14. Dear Past in the Present:

    My name is Ryan Rosado and I am writing on behalf of For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots, a PBS documentary that details the military contributions of African Americans. Realizing the educational significance of the film, the U.S. Army created an edited 25-minute version of the film and corresponding high school and college facilitator guides. The materials, structured to fit a classroom timeframe, are versatile and can compliment studies in American history, civics, social studies and ROTC programs.

    Two professors holding PhD’s in curriculum development created the facilitator guides. These guides define course outcomes, general information, important facts and post viewing questions for each chapter.

    The chapters of the film are divided according to wars, which allow educators the option to adapt the materials to fit specific topical discussions. The 25-minute version can be shown in its entirety or according to appropriate content. Either way, educators can customize the video footage to support several presentation formats.

    We believe Past in the Present could greatly benefit from posting an entry on our facilitator guides and electronic chapters of the For Love of Liberty documentary. Since your website targets educators and history enthusiasts specifically, the materials we can post to Past in the Present would allow blog visitors an opportunity to engage with a topic that is sometimes easily overlooked in American history.

    We would greatly appreciate any feedback or assistance you could provide for this initiative. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you consider For Love of Liberty as an additional educational resource for your website.

    Ryan Rosado

    Please note that after September 30, 2010, the For Love of Liberty educational materials will not be longer be available online since the program will not receive funding from the US Army this upcoming fiscal year. All assets will be gone. So please take this opportunity to obtain these materials free for download before they are no longer available.

  15. Hi, interesting blog! And thanks for the link to my book site, “1775”. I thought I’d note you have no listed way in which to contact you. Do you have a contact form or a twitter? -Derek

  16. Michael Lynch

    Hi Derek,

    No problem. If you like, I can send you my e-mail address.


  17. Not necessary at this time, I just wanted to say thanks to the link. I’ve added your blog to mine too…

  18. Hi Michael,

    Thanks again for your help in reviewing our Civil War Augmented Reality Project.

    Just a tip, if you’re interested- The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA will be hosting a free alternate reality game entitled “The Jewel of the Valleys” beginning in May. The game will be designed to support a fundraiser for the education department of the museum, and to educate students and the general public on Civil War-era communications technology and the analysis of primary documents and artifacts. For a quick run-down, check out http://www.historyteachersattic.com/2011/03/civil-war-alternate-reality-game-in-may/

    The “rabbit hole” will be distributed on May 15.

    Jeff Mummert

  19. Alice Bickley

    Your review takes very strong positions of the Civil War at Conner PRairie and completely withholds any observations about the validity of the history, the educational merits or the quality of the visitor experience. Have you visited conner prairie, Michael?

    • Michael Lynch

      Thank you for your comment, Alice. You’ve raised some excellent points that deserve a response. (For those of you who haven’t read the post we’re talking about, it’s over in the main section of the blog: https://pastinthepresent.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/experience-war-and-bring-your-rubber-swim-pants/).

      To answer your question, I have never been to Conner Prairie, though I hope to go someday. I’ve heard and read many fine things about it, and it’s unquestionably been one of the more influential living history sites in the country.

      My criticism of their new Civil War program is not intended to be a dismissal of CP as a whole, but rather a criticism of the specific approach taken with the Morgan’s Raid component. The reason I didn’t address the historical or educational content is simply because the PR material (part of it issued by CP) doesn’t really address those issues. That, in fact, is one of the reasons I’m a little leery about this exhibit. The emphasis seems to be more on the visceral experience than anything else. Of course, one of CP’s goals was to give visitors a sense of what being in the middle of a cavalry raid would have been like, but my opinion, based on the work I’ve done in public history, is that recovering an experience from more than a century ago is generally beyond the abilities of most public history institutions. I think it would take a good deal more than sound systems and special effects to fully convey the terror experienced by civilians in the middle of one of Morgan’s attacks. To put visitors in a simulation and give them the notion that they’ve “experienced” the Civil War risks trivializing what happened to the actual participants. It’s for those reasons that I have serious qualms about that approach to historical interpretation.

      As for the kids’ play area, I just don’t really see what purpose it could serve other than providing a place for children to let off some steam. As far as I’m able to determine, it doesn’t really convey any educational information. It’s just a wet playground that happens to have a riverboat theme. Encouraging creative play is a worthy endeavor, but I think it’s essentially a waste of money and space for a prestigious living history site to undertake something of that nature.

      Of course, these are just my opinions, and anyone is free to disagree with me. Again, I want to stress that I’m not trying to write off CP. I just take issue with this particular project they’ve launched.

      Thanks again for your comment. Feel free to stop by and leave a response anytime.


  20. scottgallison

    I have a suggestion for a book you might want to blog about. It’s titled The Mindset Lists of American History. Here’s more about it:


    Just as high school graduates in 1957 couldn’t imagine life without zippers, those of 2009 can’t imagine having to enter phone booths and deposit coins in order to call someone from the street corner. Every August, the Mindset List highlights the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of that year’s incoming college class. Now this fascinating book extends the Mindset List approach to dramatize what it was like to grow up for every American generation since 1880, showcasing the remarkable changes in what Americans have considered “normal” about the world around them.

  21. I’m so glad to have found this site. I’m a native of west Tennessee and an author specializing in Southern historical novels. Looking forward to reading your posts.

  22. Just wanted to flag you that I’ve listed your blog on my page for a “Liebster Award,” the peer recognition from fellow bloggers. Don’t feel as though you need to follow through with the question and answer parameters suggested by the award guidelines (it’s actually a bit labor intensive!). But I just wanted to let you know I admire the work you’re doing here.

  23. Just found your blog with a search for “beards in the American Revolution.” I am getting back into 18th century reenacting after an absence of ten years, and am building a Tory persona. With three-months-growth of a beard, I was dismayed to see your post about beards, and am now working up the courage to either shave or tell my commander that I won’t make it to muster. 🙂

    On another note, I am really appreciating your blog in general, and have added it to my feed reader. My blog is fairly new compared to yours, but you may enjoy it: http://www.usefulhistorian.com

    Now back to my crisis of authenticity…

    • Michael Lynch

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the beard thing. I know lots of 18th-century reenactors who go all out with facial hair.

      Glad you found the blog! I’ll add your site to my blogroll.

  24. I very much enjoyed your blog, Past in the Present. I am working on a history book-blog of my own, which can be seen at [one word] theoryofirony.com, then clicking on either the “sample chapter” or “blog” buttons at the top. My Rube Goldberg brain asks with an odd, well-caffeinated kind of logic: Why is there an inverse proportion between the size of the print and the importance of the message? Science. Commerce. Art. Literature. Military. Religion. I call this eccentric thinking the Theory of Irony and if your busy schedule permits, give a read, leave a comment or create a blogroll link. In any event, best of luck with your own endeavors.

    P.S. It concerns Classical, Medieval and Modern eras.

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