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James Longhurst

Specialty area(s)

public policy, urban environmental history, transportation and bicycle history, and the social and cultural history of modern America

Brief biography

Before coming to La Crosse in 2008, I lived in New York, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho.
Here on campus, I volunteer some of my time with the McNair Scholars program, teaching a GRE prep seminar and advising grad-school-bound students. I also work in bicycle advocacy projects on campus and in the community, like Bicycle La Crosse.
I enjoy running, biking and kayaking. I often spend summers on Lake Superior, or on a bike somewhere in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Current courses at UWL

Fall 2018:
HIS 102: Global Transition and Change: Reacting to the Past
HIS 317: American Environmental History 

Spring 2018:
HIS 102: Global Transition and Change: Reacting to the Past
HIS 200: History and Historiography  HIS 490: Research Seminar

Fall 2017:
HIS 102: Global Transition and Change: Reacting to the Past
HIS 392: History through Film: The US in WWII 

Spring 2017:
HIS 102: Global Transition and Change: Reacting to the Past
ENV 303: Sustainable Transportation




Ph. D. History & Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, (Pittsburgh, PA) 2004
M.S. History & Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, (Pittsburgh, PA) 1998
B.A., U.S. History, Linfield College, (McMinnville, OR) 1994

Teaching history

Here at UW-L, I teach a variety of courses reflecting my interests in global environmental history, the history of 20th century America, social movements in post-war America, and public and policy history. My degree is in history and policy, a scholarly approach that is intended to produce historical research that can be useful in understanding public institutions and policy choices in the present. As such, I often discuss the links between past and present in my classroom, something that policy analysts call "path dependency" but that I like to call "history". This is particularly evident in my classes on environmental history and environmental policy.
As faculty in the new Topical Emphasis in Public and Policy History emphasis I work to bring together the contributions of many faculty members working to further this new academic option for UW-L students. Public policy is the study of the strategies, actions, and problems faced by decision makers, ranging from taxation to infrastructure to social welfare, and I am interested in how those decisions about public policy are made, generally on the level of cities. I'm particularly interested in urban history, environmental politics, the form or design of cities, and the creation of institutions concerned with local, municipal, or state policy matters. I mostly address these topics in the United States, and in the late 19th and entirety of the 20th centuries.

Research and publishing

I am the author of Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road, published by the University of Washington Press in 2015, and released in paper in 2017. Widely reviewed and promoted, this book targets a popular audience with new scholarly history of the bicycle's policy and legal battles in American cities. There's more information available on the website. In a previous stage of this research, I published The Sidepath Not Taken: Bicycles, Taxes, and the Rhetoric of the Public Good in the 1890s..

My previous research project focused on the rise of local environmental organizing in the United States and Pittsburgh in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I used one environmental organization, Pittsburgh's Group Against Smog and Pollution or GASP, as a case study of the impact of new federal legislation and judicial philosophy on local organizing, implementation and enforcement. This resulted in the publication, in 2010, of my book Citizen Environmentalists.