CRAIG BRUCE SMITH
Early American Historian and
Author of American Honor
Craig Bruce Smith is an assistant professor of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies at the US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
He authored American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals during the Revolutionary Era and co-authored George Washington’s Lessons in Ethical Leadership.
Smith earned his PhD in American history from Brandeis University. Previously, he was an assistant professor of history and the director of the history program at William Woods University and taught at additional colleges, including Tufts University.
He specializes in American Revolutionary and early American history, with a specific focus on honor, ethics, war, the founders, transnational ideas, and national identity. In addition, he has broader interests in colonial America, the early republic, leadership, the Atlantic world, and early American cultural, intellectual, and political history.
American Honor: The Creation of the Nation's Ideals during the Revolutionary Era
Published by the University of North Carolina Press
American Honor tells the history of the Revolution through an ethical lens. It shows that a colonial ethical transformation caused and became inseparable from the American Revolution, creating a continuing moral ideology. This book centers on several generations of Americans who came of age before the Revolution and climbed to prominence during it. These founders are remembered for their contributions to American independence and the creation of a nation, but while they were forming this new republic, they reflected on the ethics of their deeds. They wanted the country to succeed, but not at the cost of honor or virtue. These two concepts were at the forefront of the American founders’ minds as they traveled the precarious road to independence.
American Honor traces the development of honor and virtue in the lives of people such as Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and other individuals from the elite, middling and lower classes. It also incorporates groups that have historically been excluded from the discussion of honor, such as women and African Americans. Using a narrative writing style and a deep core investigation into members of these Revolutionary generations, this project traces extensive changes over time and analyzes how thought influenced action.
Praise for American Honor
"American Honor views the American Revolution through a new lens. By exploring honor as a concrete ideal rather than an abstract concept, it reveals the evolving sense of moral purpose that framed the nation's founding. An important read for anyone who wants a full understanding of the bonds of principle that joined revolutionary Americans in shared cause."
~ Joanne Freeman, Yale University, author of Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic
"In this conceptually daring and analytically original overview of the entire Revolutionary age, Smith explores the genesis of American political and ethical traditions and sheds important light on some of the oldest and most familiar themes in early American history."
~ Jason Opal, McGill University, author of Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, The Rule of Law, and the American Nation
"Craig Bruce Smith unfolds a new dimension of the American Revolution with this engaging investigation of honor, virtue, and ethics. His study brings us to a closer and deeper understanding of what the signers of the Declaration of Independence meant when they mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor."
~ David L. Preston, The Citadel, author of Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution
"In American Honor, Craig Bruce Smith deftly explores the values shared and promoted by the founders to secure republican government. Learned and insightful, this fine book freshly illuminates our national origins."
~ Alan Taylor, University of Virginia, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804
A “fascinating” and “lucid account.”
~ Dominic Green, Spectator USA
"Smith’s work is likely to remain the principal study in its field and is highly recommended for an audience that enjoys an academic treatment of intellectual history."
~ Alec D. Rogers, review in the Journal of the American Revolution
"Smith has succeeded in writing an important book that revolutionary historians and anyone interested in the place of ethics in public life should read."
~ Mark Boonshoft, Norwich University, review in The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History
"I highly recommend American Honor for its novel and innovative thinking about the causes and ideology of the American Revolution...Smith offers thought-provoking conclusions to expand the thinking of both casual readers and well-informed scholars...the book offers insights which may be relevant in our current political situation which is experiencing ethical and virtuous challenges across many spectrums."
~ Gene Procknow, review in Researching the American Revolution
"Smith’s American Honor is a fascinating study of one of the forces that drives people and how such forces are fashioned...[it] is a breath of fresh air...American Honor is a worthy first book from a promising young scholar and a necessary text for readers seeking to enrich their understanding of the period."
~ Daniel N. Gullotta, Stanford University, review in University Bookman
Smith "has written that rarest of books: a history that is scholarly in its scope and methodology but inspiring in its tone."
~ Miles Smith, Regent University, review in The New Criterion
"American Honor is a highly original work that deals gracefully with difficult and often amorphous terms and that succeeds in reinvigorating debates on honor culture, inching us closer to a more holistic understanding of the American Revolution."
~ Jacqueline Beatty, York College of Pennsylvania, review in Journal of Southern History
"'The Greatest Man in the World': A Global History of George Washington"
What did other countries think of George Washington? This project explores George Washington as a global figure during his own lifetime. It follows different nations’ changing perceptions of Washington from the French and Indian War through his death and apotheosis. Framing early America within a global history, this manuscript is the first to examine Washington as a world figure, rather than one that was exclusively American. It begins with the French and Indian War and his dubious emergence on the world scene, where the French cast him as an “assassin” and the British lamented his signing an article of surrender as “the most infamous [document] a British subject ever put his hand to.”
The manuscript traces Washington’s global ascent, whereby he was admired by Louis XVI for his humanity, Frederick the Great for his military skill, and George III for simply being “the greatest man in the world.” It advances that Washington, in turn, became a symbol beyond his own country and representative of universal concepts of humanity, liberty, and leadership.
"Redemption: The American Revolution, Ethics, and Abolitionism in Britain and the United States"
In 1787, Article 1 Section 9 of the United States Constitution formalized the first attempt at a national anti-slavery policy. James Madison boasted that it was “a great point in favor of humanity.” But according to the constitutional provision, no action could be taken for another twenty-one years. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Great Britain, which was still reeling from its defeat in the American Revolution, used the issue of slavery to reassert itself as the United States’ moral superior. For many Americans, the Revolutionary War was fought to save themselves from the horrors of slavery. Not the slavery experienced by vast numbers of African American slaves, but a form of ideological and political slavery that would strip the colonists of their natural rights. America had accused Britain of being lost to honor and virtue, and the Empire’s defeat in the war seemed to support this allegation. In order to reclaim its honor, Britain attempted to assert its ethical superiority over the United States by targeting the inherent contradiction between American freedom and slavery.
Slavery had always been a point of hypocrisy in the American rhetoric of superior ethics—one targeted by the British as early as the Revolutionary era—and it became a path for post-war Britain to regain the moral high ground and national honor. The anti-slavery legislation and abolitionist movement was a conscious effort by the British to prove themselves the Americans’ ethical betters on the world stage. In turn, the changing direction of the British offensive saw Americans react similarly in supporting abolitionism to maintain their reputation of virtue.
Talks and Appearances
June 1, 2019
“American Honor,” The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Chicago, Ill.
May 10, 2019
Keynote, Society of the Cincinnati Triennial Meeting, Philadelphia, Pa.
December 17, 2018
“Washington’s Honor,” Missouri River Regional Library, Jefferson City, Mo.
November 17, 2018
"American Honor," Boone County Historical Society, Columbia, Mo.
November 9, 2018
“The American Revolution and the Democratization of Honor,” St. John’s University, Queens, N.Y.
November 8, 2018
“American Honor,” Fraunces Tavern Museum, New York, N.Y.
October 16, 2018
"'Union and National Honor': The Society of the Cincinnati and the Ethics of the New Republic," Anderson House (Museum and Library of The Society of the Cincinnati), Washington, D.C.
October 5, 2018
Concord Museum (part of the 2018 Concord Festival of Authors), Concord, Mass.
October 4, 2018
"Riots, Boycotts, and Resistance: Honor, Boston, and the Coming of the American Revolution," Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, Boston, Mass.
October 4, 2018
"Honor and Ethics: The Foundation of George Washington’s Leadership," Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.
October 3, 2018
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Mass.
September 19, 2018
Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia, Mo.
September 8, 2018
“Daughters of Liberty, Women of Honor: The Female Ethics of the American Revolution,” Daughters of the American Revolution, Columbia, Mo.
September 6, 2018
August 9, 2018
"Washington’s Honor," Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon, Va.
August 8, 2018
Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.
July 19–22, 2018
“In Relation to Washington: Soldiers and the Aftermath of the Revolution, 1783-1800,” Comment, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Annual Meeting, Cincinnati, Ohio
July 1, 2018
"'A Knightly Personage': The Honor and Ambition of Andrew Jackson," Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, Nashville, Tenn.
June 14–16, 2018
"Between Emotion and Ideology in the Age of Revolution," (roundtable discussion), Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture Annual Meeting, Williamsburg, Va.
April 21, 2018
"Gentlemen Soldiers: Honor, George Washington, and the Continental Army," David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pa.
* East Coast book launch for American Honor
April 19, 2018
* Book launch party for American Honor, William Woods University, Fulton, Mo.
March 14–16, 2018
"Washington: American Founder, Global Figure," Missouri Conference on History, Jefferson City, Mo.
(co-presented with Paige Bichsel '20, undergrad mentee)
February 21, 2017
“Leadership Lessons from George Washington,” Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society Conference, William Woods University, Fulton, Mo.
January 20, 2017
"'My Country's Honor:' George Washington and Ethical Leadership," "Hail to the Chief": The Presidency and American Character Lecture Series, William Woods University, Fulton, Mo.
July 20, 2016
“Atlantic Abolitionism and National Reputation: The Intersection of Ethics and Policy in the United States and Britain,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Mass.
"The Uncertain Fate of Female Soldiers: Honor versus Disgrace in the American Revolution,” International Society for Military Ethics Conference, Annapolis, Md.
July 17, 2015
“Washington’s Ethics,” Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon, Va.
Press clips, news releases, articles, op-eds, podcasts, and videos
"Virginian Honor: The Ethics of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson;" Virginia Museum of History & Culture; Sept. 6, 2018
"Meet the Fellows: Craig Smith;" David Library of the American Revolution; June 2017
"Rightly to Be Great;" The Washington and Lee University Institute for Honor Symposium; March 29, 2014
"WWU professor’s history book launches;" Fulton Sun; April 22, 2018
"Continental Army," part of the Lectures in History series
An interview with journalist Mary Calvi
"Benjamin Franklin's Views on Honor," a talk given at the University of Missouri
William Woods professor uses Inauguration Day to educate students