Dr. Robert A. Gross is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut. A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, he received his B.A. in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 (Phi Beta Kappa 1965) and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1976. He taught at Amherst College, the University of Sussex, and the College of William and Mary (where he served as director of American Studies) before coming to the University of Connecticut in 2003. He is the recipient of various national awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim, Howard, and Rockefeller Foundations, the Fulbright Program, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Gross specializes in U.S. social and cultural history from the colonial era through the nineteenth century. His first book on the American Revolution, The Minutemen and Their World (25th anniversary edition, 2001), won the 1977 Bancroft Prize in American History. He has continued studies of the Revolutionary era in such works as In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion (1993). A second focus of his scholarship is 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. Dr. Gross also contributes to the new interdisciplinary field known as the history of the book, examining the production and uses of print in North American and Europe. With Mary Kelley of the University of Michigan, he is co-editor of An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation (forthcoming, University of North Carolina Press, 2009), volume 2 of the American Antiquarian Society’s collaborative series, A History of the Book in America.
A one-time journalist at Newsweek and freelance writer for Harper’s, Saturday Review, and Book World, Dr. 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, Turkey, Denmark, and The Netherlands, devised public humanities programs for the Bicentennial of the Constitution, and directed an NEH summer institute to commemorate the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson. Most recently, he has served as Chair of the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture at the American Antiquarian Society and book review editor of the William and Mary Quarterly. He has received the Mary C. Turpie Award from the American Studies Association for “outstanding achievement” as a teacher, adviser, and program builder in this field and been Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence (2002-2003) at the American Antiquarian Society.
Since coming to UConn in fall 2003, Dr. Gross has been actively involved with the Honors Program, serving as a member of Task Force in 2005 that recommended the new Honors Core curriculum. With Janet Pritchard of the School of the Arts and Robert Thorson of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, he was one of the original Honors Fellows selected in 2005-2006 to devise a new course under the broad theme “Nature Transformed: Historical, Literary and Scientific Perspectives on Environment and Culture in the United States.” Out of their collaborative work came the course “Walden and the American Landscape,” which Dr. Gross has taught with great enthusiasm since the fall of 2006. He currently serves as a member of the Honors Board of Associate Directors.