Angus Burgin

Angus Burgin

Class of 2002, America Field
Associate Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University
Angus Burgin

Thesis Title: “Among All these Forces”: Fictions of a Changing Academy

What Now: Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Department of History

Follow Me: @angusburgin (Twitter)

When the time came to select a concentration in the fall of 1999, I was uncertain about what career I wanted to pursue and reluctant to commit to a single discipline. I saw History and Literature primarily as a means to an end: it would allow me to preserve options and continue taking the courses in the catalog that I found most interesting.  So I remember my chagrin on the first day of sophomore tutorial, when one of the tutors said that the department should be renamed "Primary Texts in their Contexts": to a student who chose the concentration for its breadth, this sounded a worrisome note of specificity. But over the next three years, that methodology — a commitment to the close reading of texts within the unique social worlds their authors inhabited — transformed both my approach to scholarship and my worldview. I came to believe that a critical engagement with societies in the present day requires some understanding of the ways in which their ideas and assumptions have changed over time. My evolving interests were thoughtfully channeled by the department’s tutors, who devoted an extraordinary amount of individual attention to students in a research university where it was otherwise easy to feel lost.  My experiences in the program inspired me to return to academic research after graduation, as I completed a doctorate in History at Harvard and joined the History Department at Johns Hopkins. In my current writing, which explores how and why popular ideas about politics and markets have evolved over the course of the twentieth century, I continue to build on methods and insights that I first learned as an undergraduate in History and Literature at the turn of the century.