Early American Historian and
    Author of American Honor











  • About Me

    I am an Assistant Professor of History and the Director of the History Program at William Woods University. I earned my PhD in American History from Brandeis University. My specialization is in early American cultural and intellectual history during the long eighteenth century and the Age of Revolution, specifically looking at ethics, national identity, and transnational ideas.

    In addition, I have broader interests in colonial America, the early republic, leadership, the Atlantic world, military history, and the American Founders.

  • CV

  • American Honor: The Creation of the Nation's Ideals during the Revolutionary Era

    Available April 23, 2018 from the University of North Carolina Press


    Pre-order now on Amazon

    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.

    "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​

    "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


    "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 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

  • Upcoming Projects

    "'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

    November 8, 2018

    “American Honor,” Fraunces Tavern Museum, New York, NY

    August 9, 2018

    "Washington’s Honor," Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon, VA

    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)

    September 15, 2017

    "'Early to Rise': Benjamin Franklin and the Creation of Ascending Honor,” Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO
    Read more about the event * Filmed for C-SPAN

    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, MA

    January 2016

    "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

  • C-SPAN

    Benjamin Franklin's Views on Honor, a talk given at the University of Missouri