John Grider

Associate Professor

Specialty area(s)

Maritime history, Labor & Working-class history, Native American history, and history of the American West

Brief biography

I teach a variety of courses on global history and United States history here at UW-L. When teaching history to students I attempt to instill a sense that the past is about real people whose beliefs, actions, and daily lives have influenced and shaped the world. I also attempt to show students that history is more than a story about the powerful few, and that everyday people, who may seem powerless, play a major role in shaping the past and the future. For this reason, in addition to teaching General Education courses in global history, I teach courses in United States labor and working class history, Native American history, history of piracy, maritime history, immigration history, and the history of the American West. By uncovering the role played by the often nameless and faceless masses, students come to realize that they too are a part of history and that their decisions today will affect future generations.

Current courses at UWL

HIS 101 Global Origins of the Modern World
HIS 210 Survey of United States History
HIS 300 History of Piracy
HIS 300 American Maritime History
HIS 308 Reforming United States Society
HIS 310 Native American History
HIS 377 United States Labor History
HIS 306 History of Ethnic America
HIS 378 History of the United States West

Research and publishing

My research primarily examines how work and labor identity changed aboard American merchant vessels in the Pacific during the nineteenth century. Sailors built a maritime community and culture in the Atlantic that promoted masculinity and ethnic and racial tolerance among seamen. During the nineteenth century, sailors encountered Pacific Islanders and Asians who quickly sought to enter the maritime labor community aboard foreign vessels. New to the maritime world developed in the Atlantic, Pacific peoples brought their own cultural values and masculine identities onto ships that did not always mesh well with traditional maritime customs and work habits. Some Pacific peoples, such as Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians, fit well into the maritime community, while other Pacific peoples, like the Chinese, did not. I argue that the influx of Pacific peoples into the maritime labor force during the second half of the nineteenth century, combined with advances in maritime technologies forced sailors to reevaluate and alter the way they perceived themselves and their labor. Sailors, once tolerant and accepting, became intolerant and abusive towards Asians and refused to serve with them aboard ships and denied them membership in maritime unions. Ultimately, racial segregation harmed seamen by pitting sailors against each other, allowing employers to exploit worker divisiveness.

Selected Publications or Presentations
Review of Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World's First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to the Present, by Leon Fink. Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies (Forthcoming 2014)

"Sailors, States, and Employers in the Construction of Masculine Maritime Identity," Politics, Groups, and Identities (May 2013)

Review of The Misfortunes of Alonso Ramirez: The True Adventures of a Spanish American with 17th-Century Pirates, edited by Fabio Lopez Lazaro. Journal of World History (March 2013)

'I Espied a Chinaman': Chinese Sailors and the Fracturing of the 19th Century Pacific Maritime Labor Force, in Maritime Slavery, edited by Philip D. Morgan (London: Routledge, 2012)

Review of Sound Rising: Long Island Sound at the Forefront of America’s Struggle for Independence by Richard Radune. Connecticut History (October 2012)

""An Overstrained Sense of Manliness: The Atlantic Origins of Pacific Maritime Identity," Sexuality & Politics (July 2010)

“‘I Espied a Chinaman’: The Chinese and 19th Century Pacific Maritime Labor,” Slavery and Abolition (September 2010)

Review of Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail, by Daniel Vickers. Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas (May 2007)

“Sailors Union of the Pacific,” in Encyclopedia of US Labor and Working Class History, edited by Eric Arnesen (New York: Routledge, 2006)

“Diamonds Are Not Forever: The Murder of ‘Diamond Dolly’ Bibbens,” in Unsolved Murders of San Diego: Twelve Homicides of Mystery, edited by Raymond Brandes (San Diego: University of San Diego, 1994)

Selected Awards
UW-L Online Course Development Grant, 2013

UW-L Faculty Research Grant, 2012

UW-L International Development Grant, 2012

UW-L Online Course Development Grant, 2011

“The American Maritime People”: National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College and University Teachers, hosted by the Munson Institute, Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea, June 21-July 30, 2010

S.A.P.A. Most Accessible Nominee Award for 2008
Students Advocating Potential Ability
April 7, 2009

Winner of the 2006 University of Colorado Graduate Committee on the Arts and Humanities Dissertation Award

Thomas Edwin Devaney Dissertation Fellowship, University of Colorado Center for Humanities and the Arts, 2005-2006


Ph.D. History, University of Colorado, 2006
M.A. University of San Diego, 1996
B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, 1992