Draper Professor of Early American History
Areas of Specialty
U.S. social and cultural history, 1750-1850; the American Revolution; Transcendentalism; the history of the book in the United States; New England studies.
Current Research Interests
The Transcendentalists and Their World, a social and cultural history of Emerson and Thoreau and the Concord, Massachusetts community in which they lived and wrote.
A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Robert A. Gross received the B.A. in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and the M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1976) in history from Columbia University. He taught at Amherst College (1976-88), the University of Sussex (1981-83) and the College of William and Mary (1988-2003) before coming to UConn. He is the recipient of various national awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim, Howard, and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Antiquarian Society.
Prof. Gross specializes in the social and cultural history of the U.S., from the colonial era through the nineteenth century. His first book on the American Revolution, The Minutemen and Their World (1976), won the Bancroft Prize in American History; it was issued in a 25th anniversary edition in 2001. He has continued studies of the Revolutionary era in such works as In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion (1993). For two decades he has been deeply involved in the interdisciplinary field known as the history of the book, serving on the editorial board for the multi-volume History of the Book in America published by the University of North Carolina Press and co-editing with Mary Kelley the second volume of the series, “An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840,” (2010). His other recent work examines New England writers — notably, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson — in historical context. From that project has come The Transcendentalists and Their World, to be published by Hill & Wang.
A onetime journalist at Newsweek and free-lance writer for Harper’s, Saturday Review, and Book World, Prof. Gross addresses his scholarship to academic and general audiences alike. He has consulted on museum exhibitions and documentary films, lectured as a Fulbright scholar in Brazil, Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands, devised public humanities programs for the Bicentennial of the Constitution, directed a NEH summer institute at William and Mary to commemorate the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson, and spoken frequently in NEH and Teaching American History programs for community college and K-12 teachers. He has served as chair of the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture at the American Antiquarian Society and as book review editor of the William and Mary Quarterly.
“Thoreau and the Laborers of Concord,” Raritan 33, no. 1 (Summer 2013): 50-66
“Helen Thoreau’s Antislavery Scrapbook,” Yale Review 100, no. 1 (January 2012): 103-20
Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, “An Age of Print? The History of the Book and the New American Nation,” common-place 11, no. 4 (July 2011)
Editor (with Mary Kelley), “An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840,” volume 2 of A History of the Book in America (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
“‘Doctor Ripley’s Church’: Congregational Life in Concord, Massachusetts, 1778-1841,” The Journal of Unitarian Universalist History XXXIII (2009-2010): 1-37
“A Yankee Rebellion? The Regulators, New England, and the New Nation.” New England Quarterly 82 (March 2009): 112-135.
“Seeing the World in Print,” in Sabrina Baron, Eric Lindquist, and Eleanor Shevlin, eds., Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), 378-96.
“Building a National Literature: The United States, 1800-1890,” in Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, eds., A Companion to the History of the Book (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 315-28
“Quiet War with the State: Henry David Thoreau and Civil Disobedience,” Yale Review 91 (October 2005): 1-17.
“Reading History and Remembering the Past,” American Historical Association Perspectives (April 2005), Viewpoints section
“Where IS New England?” Uncommon Sense No. 119 (Fall 2004)
“Commemorating Concord: How a New England Town Invented Itself,” Common-place 4, no. 1 (October 2003)
“Giving in America: From Charity to Philanthropy,” in Lawrence J. Friedman and Mark D. McGarvie, eds., Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 29-48
“Print and the Public Sphere in Early America,” in Melvyn Stokes, ed., The State of American History (Oxford: Berg Press, 2002), pp. 245-64
“Texts for the Times: An Introduction to Book History,” in Scott Casper, Joanne Chaison, and Jeffrey D. Groves, eds., Perspectives on American Book History (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), pp. 1-16
“From ‘Old Boys’ to Mentors,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 28, 2002
“The Advisor-Advisee Relationship,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 28, 2002
The Minutemen and Their World, 25th anniversary edition, with “afterword.” New York: Hill & Wang, 2001. Originally published, New York: Hill and Wang, 1976
“The Transnational Turn: Rediscovering American Studies in a Wider World,” Journal of American Studies 34 (December 2000):1-21
“That Terrible Thoreau?: Concord and Its Hermit,” in William E. Cain, ed., A Historical Guide to Henry David Thoreau (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 181-241
“The Celestial Village: Transcendentalism and Tourism in Concord,” in Conrad E. Wright and Charles Capper, eds., Transient and Permanent: The Transcendentalist Movement and Its Contexts (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1999), pp. 251-81
“Books, Nationalism, and History,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada/Cahiers de la Société bibliographique du Canada 16 (Fall 1998): 107-23
“Communications Revolutions: Writing a History of the Book for an Electronic Age,” Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarianship, vol. 13 (1998), 27-43. Published in abridged version in The Book, Nos. 42 & 43 (July-Nov. 1997): 7-12
Editor, In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993
Printing, Politics, and the People: The 1989 James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture. Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1989. Reprinted from Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 99 (1989): 375-97 [published in 1990]
Books and Libraries in Thoreau’s Concord: Two Essays. Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1988.
Links of Interest: