James Cousins

James Cousins

James P. Cousins

James Cousins
Dr. James P. Cousins
Interim Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Director of Undergraduate Studies and Master Faculty Specialist
Ph.D., University of Kentucky (2010) 
History of Education; History Education

Office: (269) 387-5382

4436 Friedmann Hall

Mailing Address
Department of History
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5334

Teaching and Advising
I teach undergraduate courses in the history of education and secondary history education. As the department's Director of Undergraduate Studies, I oversee the advising of students with majors and minors in History and Secondary History Education.  I am currently serving as Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences but can be reached via email or at the above number.

Research and Scholarship
My primary research interests are in the history of education, broadly conceived, and history education.  In my dissertation, “Children of the Western World,” I examine the forces that acted on the development of higher education from 1780 to 1818.  Here, I challenge historical paradigms that place sectarian control at the center of collegiate identity.  My article "Lexington's 'Established Order' and the Creation of Transylvania University" explores the social networks and patronage connections that directed early educational reforms.  More recent publications take a more nuanced approach to education, extending its implications and contexts.  "Kentucky's 'Free and Easy Generation' in the War of 1812" examines the development of student culture in the aftermath of the American Revolution.  In the 1790s and early 1800s, allusions to military heroics and republican paragons were touted as standards of adulthood and manliness.  Kentucky students, I argue, mimicked patriotic morality but also built new definitions of honor and heroic conduct.  “Character of a University: the Journey of a College President in the Early Republic,” describes Rev. Horace Holley’s tour of American colleges in 1818.  Holley was elected president of Transylvania University, the first institution of higher education west of the Appalachians, in November of 1817 and set out on a circuitous western journey to examine the school firsthand.  Along the way he hoped to discover the “character of a university” and the distinguishing features of higher learning that set elite institutions apart.  His impressions of Yale, Columbia, the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and the University of Pennsylvania provide important clues to the state of higher learning in the early republic and the development of a new professional category, the American scholar. 

Horace Holley is also the subject of my first monograph, Horace Holley: Transylvania University and the Making of Liberal Education in the Early American Republic.  Holley served as president of Transylvania from 1818 to 1827 and in that time helped establish the school as an educational center of national significance.  This book explores these innovations but places them within a larger intellectual context.  Holley’s early education, theological training, ministerial career, social affiliations, and scholarly aspirations form the basis of his time at Transylvania but also allow new interpretations of America’s emerging national identity. Lessons from Holley’s life and career also resonate within modern contexts. His personal inconsistencies reflect all-too-familiar struggles between habit and aspiration, character and desire.

I’ve also published in the field of secondary history education.  My co-written book, Collaboration and the Future of Education: Preserving the Right to Think and Teach Historically, provides systematic models and examples of ways that teachers can compete with or effectively halt contemporary movements toward educational Taylorism.  Alternatives presented in this book are based on collaborative models that address the craft of teaching for pre-service and practicing secondary history teachers. Relying on original research, both qualitative and quantitative, and a maturing body of secondary literature on historical thinking, this book illuminates how collaboration creates real historical learning.


Department of History
4301 Friedmann Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5334 USA
(269) 387-4650 | (269) 387-4651 Fax