“Rob MacDougall is king of the geek historians.”
–Brett Holman, Airminded.
“Rob MacDougall, you are a historian rock star.”
–Dylan Thuras, That’s Plenty.
“Rob, I don’t know what you are talking about half the time, but I wish you would post more often.”
–Ralph Luker, Cliopatria.
Hi! I am an assistant professor of history at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. I’m also one of the associate directors of UWO’s Centre for American Studies. I received my PhD from Harvard University in 2004, and have the trucker cap to prove it. Once, some nice people said I was a “top young historian.” I’m also a new Dad, a devoted husband, and one of the last three liberal Canadians who loves the U.S.A. When I’m not changing diapers or reading Goodnight Moon, I teach American history to Canadians and research the human stories of technology and business. I’m finishing a book on the telephone and information networks of the Gilded Age. But that’s not what this blog is about.
About Old is the New New
“It makes me feel like history is just one big club of famous figures who hung out together and acted like badasses.”
–Dylan at That’s Plenty again. Maybe it’s weak to pull two blurbs from the same source, even the excellent Dylan Thuras, but that line makes me as happy as any feedback I’ve ever gotten.
If Old is the New New is about anything, it’s that the past is weirder than we think. This blog is dedicated to the back roads of American history, its oddities and strange enthusiasms, the alternate pasts that we do not immediately recognize as our own. I like to think that weird history can help us see the ways our lives today are weird: things we take for granted, choices others have made for us, injustices we don’t protest. The strange past offers an inoculation against the shrunken horizons of the present. It’s also just way cool.
I am a professional historian, and this blog is about history, but what you’re reading here is not the academic work I do. Sure, there’s a little overlap. But Old is the New New subscribes to Adam Kostko‘s rule for academic blogging: “nothing should exceed the rigor of a conversation at the pub after class.” So this is me goofing off after work. There are no footnotes on this blog; very little is based on archival research and none of it has been peer reviewed. It’s meant to be approachable and fun and not to be taken too seriously. If you’re interested in my academic work, which I do take seriously, please visit my publications page or my faculty page at UWO. There’s some good stuff there, but not nearly so much about robots battling Benjamin Franklin.
Department of History
University of Western Ontario
Social Science Centre 4328
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2